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by  Willie  * 


sahm 


Studies  in  Christian  Belief 


William  M.  Beahm 


Dean,  Bethany  Biblical  Seminary 
Chicago,  Illinois 


The  Brethren  Press 
Elgin,  Illinois 


Copyright  1958 

by 

The  Brethren  Press 
Elgin,    Illinois 


Second  Printing 


Printed  in  the  United  States  of  America 


Gratefully  dedicated  to  my  teachers,  to  my 
colleagues  on  the  faculty  of  Bethany  Biblical 
Seminary,  and  to  the  many  students  with 
whom  I  have  been  engaged  through  the 
years    in   fruitful    theological    conversation 


Table  of  Contents 


Page 

Introduction 9 

Preface    11 


«      #      •      *      « 


Chapter     1.  The  Nature  and  Credentials  of  Belief  .  15 

Part  One:  The  Grace  of  Our  Lord  Jesus  Christ 

Chapter     2.  The  Man  Christ  Jesus   35 

Chapter     3.  Christ  the  Son  of  the  Living  God 51 

Chapter     4.  He  Went  About  Doing  Good 63 

Chapter     5.  Greater  Love  Hath  No  Man 81 

Part  Two:  The  Love  of  God 

Chapter     6.  Our  Father  Who  Art  in  Heaven 101 

Chapter     7.  The  Goodness  and  Severity  of  God   ..  117 

Chapter     8.  In  This  Is  Love   138 

Chapter     9.  The  Fullness  of  the  Godhead 156 

Part  Three:  The  Fellowship  of  the  Holy  Spirit 

Chapter  10.     I  Will  Pour  Out  My  Spirit 173 

Chapter  11.  The  Holy  Spirit  and  the  Life  of 

Fellowship     194 

Chapter  12.     I  Will  Build  My  Church 208 


8  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

Chapter  13.  The  Bride  of  Christ  and  the  Body 

of  Christ   224 

Epilogue 
Chapter  14.  Christian  Hope    253 

•      *      •      #      • 

Selected  Bibliography    275 

Index    278 


Introduction 

Times  of  stress  have  always  driven  men  to  re-examine 
the  basic  faith  by  which  they  live.  It  is  not  strange, 
therefore,  that  in  these  momentous  times  of  uncertainty 
and  change  there  has  been  a  heartening  revival  of  interest 
in  Christian  theology.  Even  those  churches  which  have 
been  reluctant  to  express  their  basic  convictions  in  any 
forms  that  might  become  creedal,  and  have  shunned 
theology  as  such  lest  its  concerns  become  a  substitute  for 
"the  good  life,"  have  come  more  and  more  to  realize  that 
a  clear  understanding  of  the  basic  elements  of  the 
Christian  gospel  is  the  foundation  for  acceptable  disciple- 
ship  in  any  age,  and  an  informed  and  compelling  faith 
becomes  the  springs  for  the  stream  of  Christlike  living 
in  the  individual  or  in  the  social  order. 

This  book,  therefore,  comes  to  fill  a  real  need  in  the 
life  of  the  church.  It  is  written  by  one  who  by  training 
and  experience  is  qualified  to  set  forth  the  basic  elements 
of  Christian  belief.  He  has  proved  himself  to  be  a  trusted 
Christian  statesman  at  home  and  abroad.  His  leadership 
has  not  only  earned  for  him  a  unique  place  in  the  life  of 
his  own  denomination,  but  has  made  him  also  an 
authoritative  voice  in  the  wider  Christian  fellowship.  For 
more  than  two  decades  as  Professor  of  Christian  Doctrine 
at  Bethany  Biblical  Seminary  he  has  blessed  the  lives  and 
influenced  the  minds  of  succeeding  generations  of 
theological  students,  patiently  opening  to  them  new  doors 
of  understanding  of  the  faith  to  which  they  witness  around 
the  world. 

Writing  from  his  own  Pietistic  background,  the 
author  has  nevertheless  interpreted  Christian  doctrine  with 


10  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

the  clear  understanding  of  the  best  theological  thought 
from  the  time  of  the  early  church  until  the  present  day. 
With  his  remarkable  gift  for  expression,  and  his  unfailing 
sense  of  humor,  he  has  been  able  to  present  profound 
ideas  in  simple  and  understandable  language.  He  has 
avoided  the  peril  of  speaking  in  unintelligible  "theological 
tongues/'  Written  out  of  his  own  deep  religious  faith,  and 
a  lifetime  of  Christian  experience,  the  book  becomes  more 
than  a  study  in  doctrine.  It  is  also  a  testament  of  devotion. 
Here,  then,  is  a  book  for  all.  Laymen  will  welcome 
it  as  a  clear  and  forthright  statement  of  the  Christian  faith. 
Pastors  and  teachers  will  find  it  invaluable  as  a  study  guide 
for  classes.  Young  people  will  profit  from  its  use  in 
discussion  groups.  It  will  serve  as  a  manual  for  studies  in 
the  meaning  of  church  membership  and  Christian 
experience.  But  what  is  most  important,  it  will  give  to 
all  who  read  it  a  clearer  understanding  of  "the  faith  which 
was  once  for  all  delivered  to  the  saints,"  and  a  deeper 
appreciation  for  the  high  calling  which  is  the  Christian 
Way. 

— Paul  Minnich  Robinson 
Bethany  Biblical  Seminary 
Chicago,  Illinois 
August  1957 


Preface 

These  studies  in  christian  belief  were  prepared  as  one 
of  several  two-hundred-fiftieth  anniversary  volumes  of 
the  Church  of  the  Brethren.  This  is  a  church  which  began 
in  Schwarzenau,  Germany,  in  1708.  This  group  of  people 
had  a  Pietistic  background  and  also  came  into  close  touch 
with  the  Anabaptist  movement.  They  had  all  migrated 
to  Pennsylvania  by  1733;  from  there  they  spread  gradually 
into  Maryland  and  Virginia.  In  later  years  they  followed 
the  migrations  into  the  central  states  and  on  to  the  Pacific 
coast.  They  were  widely  known  as  Dunkers  but  used 
the  official  name,  German  Baptist  Brethren,  until  1908 
when  the  present  name,  Church  of  the  Brethren,  was 
adopted. 

This  has  always  been  a  noncreedal  church  and  it  has 
regarded  the  New  Testament  as  the  only  and  sufficient 
rule  of  faith  and  practice.  Its  early  view  on  creeds  was 
reflected  in  Michael  Wohlfahrt's  statement  to  Benjamin 
Franklin,  as  reported  in  the  latter's  Autobiography. 
Wohlfahrt,  a  member  of  a  related  but  divergent  group 
in  Pennsylvania,  explained  why  the  early  Dunkers  had 
not  formulated  a  creed.  "When  we  were  first  drawn 
together  as  a  society  it  had  pleased  God  to  enlighten  our 
minds  so  far  as  to  see  that  some  doctrines,  which  we  once 
esteemed  truths,  were  errors;  and  that  others,  which  we 
had  esteemed  errors,  were  real  truths.  From  time  to  time 
He  has  been  pleased  to  afford  us  further  light,  and  our 
principles  have  been  improving,  and  our  errors 
diminishing.  Now  we  are  not  sure  that  we  are  arrived 
at  the  end  of  this  progression,  and  at  the  perfection  of 
spiritual  or  theological  knowledge;  and  we  fear  that,  if 


12  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

we  should  once  print  our  confession  of  faith,  we  should 
feel  ourselves  as  if  bound  and  confined  by  it  and  perhaps 
be  unwilling  to  receive  further  improvement,  and  our 
successors  still  more  so,  as  conceiving  what  we  their  elders 
and  founders  had  done,  to  be  something  sacred,  never  to 
be  departed  from.,, 

This  view  on  formal  creeds  did  not  imply  disregard 
of  Christian  beliefs.  The  church  has  always  had  a  deep 
interest  in  Bible  doctrines.  In  preaching,  teaching, 
debating,  and  publishing  activities,  her  concern  for  true 
beliefs  has  been  noteworthy.  Like  many  other  groups, 
she  worked  within  the  framework  of  evangelical  Protestant 
beliefs  and  gave  much  attention  to  her  own  peculiar 
emphases.  As  late  as  1908  H.  C.  Early,  a  leading 
spokesman,  said:  "The  Protestant  churches,  for  the  most 
part,  agree  on  the  large  and  fundamental  doctrines  of  the 
New  Testament.  .  .  .  The  Church  of  the  Brethren  would 
be  understood  as  believing  and  teaching  them  with  all 
her  heart/ '  While  leaning  on  this  framework  of  general 
Protestant  belief,  he  proceeded  to  expound  "the  distinctive 
doctrines  of  the  Church  of  the  Brethren."1 

I  was  nurtured  in  this  framework  but  I  have  lived 
in  a  generation  in  which  the  unity  of  Protestant  beliefs 
cannot  so  easily  be  taken  for  granted.  The  recent  ferment 
and  vigor  of  theological  thought  in  the  wider  Christian 
world  is  a  challenge  and  stimulus  for  all  Christian  groups 
to  clarify  and  reappraise  their  total  framework  of  belief. 
These  chapters  are  an  attempted  encounter  with  the  wider 
and  older  fundamentals  of  Christian  belief.  I  hope  that  in 
this  encounter  the  great  common  affirmations  of  Christian 
belief  will  be  seen  clearly  and  persuasively  as  a  faith  for 
today  and  tomorrow  as  well  as  for  yesterday.    I   hope 

1 D.    L.    Miller    et    al.,    Two    Centuries    of    the    Church    of    the    Brethren: 
Bicentennial  Addresses  (Elgin:    Brethren  Publishing  House,  1908),  pages  133-135. 


Preface  1 3 

further  that  the  characteristic  concerns  of  a  Pietistic  church 
will  be  seen  as  rooted  in  these  common  affirmations. 
Actually  these  studies  do  not  represent  the  official 
viewpoint  of  any  church  body.  They  are  my  own 
formulation.  These  chapters  are  more  than  personal, 
opinion,  however,  insofar  as  they  seek  to  set  forth  the 
Christian  faith  which  has  its  source,  not  in  private 
preferences  of  belief,  but  in  the  Word  made  flesh. 

The  use  of  the  apostolic  benediction  as  the  structural 
arrangement  for  this  book  was  suggested  by  Dr.  Alfred 
Garvie's  volume,  The  Christian  Doctrine  of  the  Godhead. 
The  selection  of  topics  and  their  development  make  no 
attempt  to  follow  those  of  Dr.  Garvie.  In  the  preparation 
of  these  chapters  I  have  become  increasingly  persuaded 
that  Christian  belief  is  truth  to  witness  to  and  to  live  by, 
not  mere  opinion  which  has  to  be  propped  up  by  vigorous 
contention. 

Special  thanks  are  due  to  the  friends  who  have  helped 
in  a  personal  way  to  prepare  and  edit  the  manuscript  and 
to  my  wife,  Esther  Eisenbise  Beahm,  without  whose 
unfailing  encouragement  it  would  not  have  been  written. 
The  deficiencies  which  remain,  after  helpful  counsel,  are 
my  own. 

— William  M.  Beahm 

Bethany  Biblical  Seminary 

Chicago,  Illinois 

August  1957 


CHAPTER  ONE 


The  Nature  and  Credentials  of  Belief 


In  mark  9:24  the  father  of  an  afflicted  boy  cried  out 
to  Jesus,  "I  believe;  help  my  unbelief."  He  spoke  not  only 
for  his  own  faithless  generation  but  also  for  ours.  We 
waver  between  belief  and  unbelief,  unwilling  to  give  up 
the  former  and  unable  to  give  up  the  latter. 

We  cherish  the  belief  expressed  in  sentimental  songs, 
"I  believe."  We  lean  toward  "the  sunny  side  of  doubt." 
We  cling  tenaciously  to  "the  will  to  believe."  We  long 
for  the  truth  of  things.  And  yet  we  are  often  beset  by 
the  chill  of  unbelief.  This  unbelief  may  be  due  to  the 
justifiable  rebellion  against  the  arrogant  and  pretentious 
certainties  of  so-called  religious  people.  It  may  be  due 
to  bewilderment  in  periods  of  rapid  change.  It  may  be 
due  to  the  confusion  or  betrayal  of  authorities  we  have 
trusted.  It  may  be  due  to  disappointment  of  our  hopes 
or  to  the  sorrow  of  suffering  or  the  grief  of  bereavement. 
It  finds  greatest  warrant  also  in  the  superstitions  from 
which  we  have  been  freed  and  in  new  truth  we  have 
discovered.  Once  we  have  caught  ourselves  being 
credulous  and  gullible,  we  tend  to  take  matters  of  belief 
with  a  grain  of  salt.  We  try  to  comfort  ourselves  by  saying, 
"It  is  not  what  one  believes   that  matters;    it   is   what 

one  does." 

And  yet  what  blessing  there  is  in  belief!  What 
comfort  there  is  in  the  assurance  that  what  we  trust  in 
is  solid  and  dependable!  What  meaning  there  is  to  life 
when  we  see  that  it  is  going  somewhere!   What  joy  there 


16  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

is  to  know  that  we  are  not  alone  in  the  world,  that  there 
are  those  and  there  is  One  who  care  for  us!  And  so  we 
cry  out,  "I  believe;  help  my  unbelief." 

True  belief  cannot  be  whipped  up  by  closing  the 
eyes  and  taking  a  deep  breath.  It  must  have  some  basis 
in  reality.  If  we  suspect  that  it  is  only  wishful  thinking, 
the  starch  goes  out  of  it.  This  is  not  always  clear  to  us 
immediately,  but  sometimes  our  vigor  of  insistence  is 
itself  a  betrayal  of  our  doubt.  "Methinks  thou  doth  protest 
too  much!" 

There  are  different  levels  or  qualities  of  belief.  There 
is  belief  as  recognition  of  a  fact  or  of  the  truth  of  a 
statement.  Sometimes  this  is  as  easy  as  to  acknowledge 
that  this  is  Tuesday  or  that  the  sun  is  shining.  Sometimes 
is  is  difficult  and  we  cannot  believe  our  eyes.  We  are  like 
the  zoo  visitor  who  saw  his  first  giraffe  and  declared 
unbelievingly,  "There  is  no  such  animal!"  This  kind 
of  belief  can  be  very  jaunty.  One  can  believe  with 
"profound  disengagement"  that  Mt.  Everest  is  29, 141  feet 
above  sea  level.   Or  it  can  be  significant. 

A  strong  sense  of  the  reality  and  nature  of  things 
comes  only  from  believing  that  they  are  what  they  are. 
Respect  for  "stubborn  and  irreducible  facts"  is  the 
gateway  to  truth.  Such  realism  is  the  road  to  reality. 
"For  whoever  would  draw  near  to  God  must  believe  that 
he  exists"  and  he  must  also  believe  "that  he  rewards  those 
who  seek  him"  (Hebrews  11:6).  This  kind  of  belief 
involves  an  "engagedness  of  the  heart."  It  is  an  earnest 
conviction  and  a  deep  personal  trust.  It  is  the  commitment 
of  one's  life  to  the  truth  which  is  believed. 

This  level  of  belief  is  exemplified  in  the  story  of 
the  Frenchman  who  stretched  a  cable  across  the  gorge 
of  the  Niagara  River.   His  fame  went  far  when  he  pushed 


The  Nature  and  Credentials  of  Belief  17 

a  wheelbarrow,  with  a  man  riding  in  it,  across  the  gorge. 
An  enthusiast  who  came  a  long  distance  to  see  this  marvel 
was  asked  by  the  Frenchman  if  he  believed  it  could  be 
done.  The  new  arrival  declared  his  belief  that  it  could. 
Whereupon  the  Frenchman  replied,  "That  is  fortunate, 
because  the  man  who  usually  rides  in  the  wheelbarrow  is 
ill  and  I  want  you  to  take  his  place  today."  That  requires 
fullness  of  belief — such  a  certainty  of  the  truth  that  one 
is  prepared  to  stake  one's  life  on  it. 

It  is  an  error  to  say  that  beliefs  do  not  matter.  To  be 
sure,  our  statements  of  belief  may  not  accurately  represent 
the  deep  convictions  which  we  hold.  But  it  makes  a  big 
difference  what  our  deep  convictions  are.  They  furnish 
the  slant  and  climate  of  our  lives.  They  determine  our 
inner  loyalties  and,  both  in  the  pinch  and  in  the  long  run, 
the  pattern  of  our  behavior.  Mistaken  beliefs  issue  in 
mistaken  deeds.  Good  beliefs  when  deeply  held  issue  in 
good  deeds,  for  "from  it  [the  heart]  flow  the  springs  of 
life"   (Proverbs  4:23). 

The  Christian  believer  does  not  use  any  organs  of 
belief  different  from  those  which  other  people  use  for  other 
beliefs.  His  beliefs  are  a  response  to  an  encounter  with 
God  as  embodied  in  Jesus  Christ.  It  is  not  our  Christian 
beliefs  which  sent  him  walking  the  shores  of  Galilee  or 
the  hills  of  Judea.  It  is  the  intrusive  and  compelling  fact  of 
Jesus  Christ  which  has  given  rise  to  these  Christian  beliefs. 
By  what  credentials  then  does  the  present-day  Christian 
espouse  these  beliefs?  There  are  three,  viz. — the  Bible, 
the  church,  and  experience. 

The    Bible 

The  Bible  is  a  book  and  more  than  a  book.  It  is 
a  library  of  documents  which   took  many  centuries  to 


18  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

write  but  which  were  compiled  into  a  whole  early  in  the 
Christian  era.  This  book  has  had  an  amazing  circulation 
and  influence  all  over  the  world.  It  is  such  a  widely  sold 
book  that  best-seller  lists  do  not  bother  to  include  it.  The 
American  Bible  Society  in  the  first  hundred  years  of  its 
life  printed  nearly  twenty-five  million  complete  Bibles  and 
over  a  hundred  million  Testaments  and  portions,  while 
the  British  and  Foreign  Bible  Society  issued  twice  as  many 
in  a  similar  period.  The  Bible  as  a  whole  or  in  portions 
has  been  put  into  about  eleven  hundred  languages  and 
dialects.  It  has  been  translated  into  ten  times  as  many 
languages  as  has  any  other  book.  How  then  shall  we  regard 
a  book  with  such  an  amazing  history? 

Not  a  Magical  Book 

One  way  is  to  regard  it  as  a  magical  book.  There  is 
a  world-wide  tendency  to  treat  sacred  books  this  way.  A 
Moslem  teacher  in  Nigeria  spends  much  time  writing  out 
verses  from  the  Koran  and  sewing  them  up  in  a  leather 
amulet  to  be  worn  as  a  charm  around  the  neck  or  wrist. 
Sometimes  he  will  write  them  on  a  wooden  tablet  and 
then  wash  them  off  with  water  which  is  to  be  drunk  for 
special  blessing  to  the  drinker.  We  get  close  to  this  view 
when  we  encourage  soldiers  to  wear  a  New  Testament 
in  the  left  shirt  pocket  to  ward  off  bullets  from  the  heart. 
A  bit  of  skepticism  shows  up  in  a  special  edition  which 
was  published  with  steel  covers  on  the  outside.  This 
magical  mood  shows  up  when  we  use  the  Bible  to  decorate 
the  living-room  table  or  to  swear  by,  as  if  its  physical 
presence  is  automatically  effective  for  weal  or  woe.  In 
the  nature  of  the  case,  the  Bible  is  an  intelligible  book 
addressed  to  man's  mind  and  an  ethical  book  addressed  to 
his  will.  It  is  misused  indeed  when  we  thus  disregard 
the  message  it  contains  and  regard  it  as  a  book  of  magic. 


The  Nature  and  Credentials  of  Belief  19 

- 


4 


Not  Primarily  a  Literary  Work 

Or  the  Bible  may  be  regarded  as  high-quality 
literature.  It  is  that,  indeed,  especially  in  the  "purple 
patches' '  of  the  Psalms  and  the  Prophets  of  the  Old 
Testament  and  in  the  words  of  Jesus  and  the  lyric  spots 
of  the  Epistles  in  the  New  Testament.  It  is  no  marvel 
that  our  enduring  literary  authors  find  in  the  Bible  models 
of  excellence  and  inspiration.  But  the  Bible  is  never 
satisfied  to  be  mere  literature.  Beauty  and  polish,  balanced 
periods,  and  self-conscious  style  are  not  its  primary  mode. 
It  is  too  much  in  earnest  to  be  regarded  merely  as 
literature. 

Not  Primarily  a  Scientific  Description 

Or  again  the  Bible  may  be  regarded  as  a  scientific 
document  describing  the  nature  of  the  physical  world. 
While  there  is  much  reference  in  it  to  this  world  of  seas 
and  rivers,  hills  and  valleys,  deserts  and  rainbows,  flora 
and  fauna,  its  primary  concern  lies  elsewhere — in  the  God 
of  heaven  and  earth.  While  it  was  written  by  men  who 
may  have  regarded  the  earth  as  flat  and  at  the  center  of 
the  solar  system,  its  message  or  its  view  of  God  is  not 
invalidated  by  later  discovery  that  the  earth  is  round  and 
that  it  revolves  around  the  sun.  The  interstellar  spaces 
may  be  millions  of  light  years  greater  than  the  psalmist 
surmised.  But  it  is  clearer  than  ever  that  "the  heavens 
are  telling  the  glory  of  God"  (Psalm  19:1).  As  an  adequate 
philosophy  of  the  origin  and  administration  of  nature, 
however,  the  Bible  is  a  profound  and  illuminating  book. 
Its  doctrine  of  creation  saves  the  mind  from  the  maddening 
maze  of  "infinite  regress."  Its  doctrine  of  providence, 
which  regards  God  as  a  reality  above  nature  and  yet  in 
control  of  nature,  answers  the  problems  of  both  regular 
order  and  of  unpredictable  novelty. 


20  Studies  in  Christian  Belief  ^ 

Not  Primarily  a  Book  of  History 

Still  others  regard  the  Bible  primarily  as  a  book  of 
history.  Here  perhaps  current  views  and  the  Bible  are 
closest  together.  To  be  sure,  the  Bible  is  Oriental  history 
speaking  often  in  parables  and  poetry  rather  than  in  the 
bleak  prose  of  so-called  scientific  reports  of  events.  Some 
parts  of  the  narrative  may  seem  hard  to  relate  to 
archeological  findings.  But  the  Bible  is  set  for  the  most 
part  within  the  stirring  events  of  history.  Sennacherib, 
King  Uzziah,  Tiberius  Caesar,  Pontius  Pilate,  and  other 
solid  historical  characters  dot  its  pages.  Its  events  are  set 
in  designatable  places  rather  than  in  Never  Never  Land. 
The  Bible  regards  God  as  acting  in  history  and  as  Lord  of 
all  the  earth.  Indeed,  it  is  this  sense  of  divine  purpose  that 
gives  meaning  to  history  as  history.  This  has  been  called 
the  linear  view  of  history  as  contrasted  with  the  cyclic 
view  of  recurrence  which  marks  Oriental  and  classic 
thought  about  the  world.  This  line  is  based  more  on 
faith  in  God's  purposes  than  on  the  shaky  evidence  that 
history  is  going  somewhere  on  its  own.  This  faith 
undergirds  most  of  Western  thought  and  gives  it  what 
hope  it  has.  It  is  so  deeply  ingrained  in  our  thought  that 
it  is  often  taken  for  granted  and  regarded  as  a  natural 
assumption. 

The  Bible  Is  the  Word  of  God 

It  is  truest  to  the  Bible's  own  view  of  itself  to  regard 
it  as  the  Word  of  God.  As  such  it  must  be  seen  both  in 
its  fixed  and  abiding  character  and  in  its  flexible  and 
living  character.  In  a  sense  it  is  the  most  fixed  and  static 
item  in  our  Christian  tradition.  The  security  of  our  faith 
demands  permanence  and  continuity  in  the  object  of  our 
faith.  We  believe  confidently  in  that  in  which  "there  is 
no  variation  or  shadow  due  to  change"  (James  1:17). 


The  Nature  and  Credentials  of  Belief  21 

The  Bible  Is  Unchanging 

It  is  fixed  in  the  tremendous  events  which  it  records. 
These  are  regarded  as  the  mighty  acts  of  God.  In  the  Old 
Testament  the  fixed  point  is  the  deliverance  from  Egypt. 
This  is  elaborated  in  song  and  story,  in  ritual  and  in 
worship.  In  the  New  Testament  the  fixed  point  is  the 
"event  of  Christ.' '  The  Word  of  God  "became  flesh  and 
dwelt  among  us,  full  of  grace  and  truth"  (John  1:14).  The 
birth  and  childhood  of  Jesus,  his  public  ministry  and 
teaching,  the  gathering  of  his  disciples  into  an  intimate 
fellowship,  his  prophetic  witness  to  the  nation,  and,  at 
last,  his  crucifixion  and  burial,  his  resurrection  and  the 
experience  of  Pentecost — these  are  not  a  set  of  mere  ideas 
or  maxims.  They  are  events  which  occurred  and  of  which 
the  Bible  bears  witness.  Much  thought  is  given  to  the 
interpretation  of  these  events.  This  will  go  on  constantly 
as  long  as  men  live  to  think  about  them,  but  the  event  is 
fixed  in  the  ineradicable  finality  of  having  happened. 

Moreover,  the  Bible  is  fixed  in  its  central  message. 
The  "event  of  Christ' '  is  regarded  by  Christian  faith  as 
the  definitive  Word  of  God.  "In  many  and  various  ways 
God  spoke  of  old  to  our  fathers  by  the  prophets;  but  in 
these  last  days  he  has  spoken  to  us  by  a  Son"  (Hebrews 
1:1,  2a).  This  Word  is  the  clue  to  history.  It  gives  the 
interpretation  of  all  that  went  before  and  it  throws  light 
on  all  that  follows  after.  The  division  of  our  calendar 
between  B.C.  and  a.d.  is  a  vivid  witness  to  the  Christian 
interpretation  of  history,  not  primarily  from  its  beginning 
or  even  from  its  end,  but  from  the  mid-point  where  we 
have  been  given  "the  light  of  the  knowledge  of  the  glory 
of  God  in  the  face  of  Christ"   (2  Corinthians  4:6). 

It  will  take  all  of  time,  and  of  eternity  too,  to 
comprehend  the  riches  of  the  incarnation.  But  it  is  the 
Christian's  faith  that  here  is  where,  once  for  all,  we  hear 


22  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

God's  ultimate  Word.  "Jesus  Christ  is  the  same  yesterday 
and  today  and  for  ever"  (Hebrews  13:8).  This  is  the  basis 
for  regarding  the  Scriptural  canon  as  closed — not  as  a 
restriction  of  truth,  but  as  an  assured  conviction  that  here 
we  have  it  matchlessly  set  forth.  It  is  somewhat  like  the 
marvelous  outcropping  of  red  and  buff  sandstone  in 
Colorado's  Garden  of  the  Gods.  As  one  travels  southward 
or  northward  he  sees  recurrent  evidences  of  a  continuous 
wall  of  such  material  all  along  the  Rocky  Mountains.  But 
at  one  mid-point  they  can  be  seen  in  their  definitive  beauty 
and  all  the  rest  of  it  is  to  be  seen  in  the  light  of  that 
disclosure.  This  is  "the  faith  which  was  once  for  all 
delivered  to  the  saints"    (Jude  3). 

The  Bible  Is  a  Living  Book 

But  the  Bible  has  also  a  flexible  and  active  quality  to 
it.   Its  permanence  is  not  of  a  static  or  stony  type. 

The  Bible  is  alive  in  its  power  to  quicken  the  men 
who  ponder  its  pages.  The  Bible  is  alive  and  flexible  in 
its  use  of  language.  Its  authority  does  not  inhere  in 
mechanical  or  rigid  forms  of  thought  or  language.  Much 
of  it  is  written  in  metaphor  and  in  picturesque  phrases. 
It  is  full  of  symbols  and  poetry.  These  modes  of  language 
are  able  to  convey  religious  and  spiritual  truth  more 
effectively  than  if  it  were  written  in  flat  prose.  The  Bible 
requires  imagination  and  discernment  to  be  read  with 
understanding. 

Such  a  view  of  its  flexibility  frees  a  person  from  the 
bondage  of  a  wooden  literalism.  It  enables  him,  for 
example,  to  see  the  one  main  point  of  a  parable,  without 
making  it  "walk  on  all  fours"  by  seeking  special 
significance  in  every  bit  of  its  colorful  details.  It  enables 
him  to  interpret  the  variation  of  wording  which  different 
Gospel  writers  give  to  their  reports  or  interpretations  of 


The  Nature  and  Credentials  of  Belief  23 

given  events.  It  enables  a  person  to  use  the  Bible  in 
different  versions  and  languages  without  confusion  but 
rather  as  a  means  of  seeing  the  full  wealth  of  meaning  in 
it.  It  enables  him  to  hold  a  vital  conception  of  divine 
inspiration.  The  Bible  should  not  be  regarded  as  a 
document  dictated  to  an  empty-minded  stenographer,  but 
rather  as  the  highly  creative  writing  of  a  dedicated  person 
at  the  fullness  of  his  mental  and  spiritual  powers.  Such 
a  person  ' 'outdoes' '  himself  in  what  he  sees  and  what  he 
writes  under  the  living  influence  of  the  Holy  Spirit. 

In  a  sense  this  is  the  strange  power  of  all  good  books. 
John  Milton  reminds  us  in  his  Areopagitica  that  "books 
are  not  absolutely  dead  things,  but  do  contain  a  potency 
of  life  in  them  to  be  as  active  as  that  soul  was  whose 
progeny  they  are.,,  How  much  truer  this  is  of  the  Bible 
is  indicated  by  these  words  from  Coleridge:  "In  the  Bible 
there  is  more  that  finds  me  than  I  have  experienced  in  all 
other  books  put  together;  the  words  of  the  Bible  find 
me  at  greater  depth  of  my  being;  and  whatever  finds  me 
brings  with  it  an  irresistible  evidence  of  its  having 
proceeded  from  the  Holy  Spirit/ ' 

The  Bible  is  alive  in  its  ability  to  inaugurate  new 
religious  movements  of  great  power.  Saint  Francis  heard 
the  words  of  the  weekly  lesson  at  the  lectern  of  the  Assisi 
church  and  his  revolutionized  life  inaugurated  an  order 
whose  vitality  and  blessing  are  beyond  calculation.  Martin 
Luther  pored  over  the  Psalms  and  Romans  and  was  so 
quickened  that  he  could  defy  pope  and  emperor  with  the 
bold  declaration,  "Here  I  stand."  His  translation  of  the 
Bible  into  German  did  much  to  set  the  Reformation 
going.  Repeatedly,  in  history,  the  fresh  study  of  the 
Bible  has  thus  poured  new  life  into  the  church  and  into 
the  common  life. 

In  the  nature  of  the  case  the  process  of  translation 


24  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

and  revision  must  go  on  repeatedly  to  make  the 
unchanging  message  of  the  Bible  clear  in  the  living 
language  of  the  people.  Bible  scholars  are  ever  active, 
pushing  in  two  directions  at  once.  They  push  back 
through  the  centuries  to  discover  the  earliest  possible 
manuscripts  on  which  the  Scriptures  were  written.1  The 
nearer  they  can  get  to  original  eyewitness  records  the 
more  secure  is  their  hold  on  the  original  events  which  are 
the  foundation  of  our  faith.  They  also  push  forward  to 
the  living  language  of  everyday  speech.  Only  so  can 
this  message  come  into  the  daily  life  of  the  people,  for  if 
you  "utter  speech  that  is  not  intelligible,  how  will  anyone 
know  what  is  said?  For  you  will  be  speaking  into  the  air" 
(1  Corinthians  14:9).  In  such  translation  and  revision  it 
is  important  to  go  beyond  a  mechanical  exchange  of  a 
word  in  one  language  for  an  equivalent  word  in  another 
language.  Scholars  must  understand  the  peculiar  idioms 
of  each  language  and  under  the  guidance  of  the  Holy 
Spirit  seek  to  convey  in  the  new  language  the  full  and  rich 
meaning  of  what  has  been  said  in  the  old  one. 

The  Bible  is  thus  the  living  Word  of  God.  It  gives 
us  dependable  credentials  for  our  Christian  faith.  It 
gives  us  a  solid  basis  for  our  belief.  It  is  "inspired  by  God 
and  profitable  for  teaching,  for  reproof,  for  correction, 
and  for  training  in  righteousness"  (2  Timothy  3:16). 

The    Church 

But  the  Bible  does  not  provide  the  only  credentials 
of  our  Christian  faith.  There  is  also  the  church.  We 
refer  to  the  church  in  its  broadest  sense,  leaving  until 


1  It  is  interesting  to  note  that  the  New  Testament  manuscripts  available 
for  the  Revised  Standard  Version  take  us  back  eight  hundred  years  nearer  to 
the  time  of  our  Lord  thin  did  those  which  were  available  in  1611  when  the 
King  James  Version  was  issued. 


The  Nature  and  Credentials  of  Belief  25 

later  a  fuller  consideration  of  the  doctrine  of  the  church. 
But  if  we  think  of  the  church  at  all,  it  is  an  inescapable 
fact.  It  is  an  ongoing  and  living  community  which  reaches 
from  the  time  of  Jesus  down  to  our  day.  It  is  a  community 
which  has  reached  from  the  country  of  Jesus  over  to  our 
own  and  around  the  world. 

In  a  real  sense  the  church  is  the  community  in  which 
the  Bible  originated.  This  is  especially  true  of  the  New 
Testament.  The  Epistles  and  Revelation  were  missionary 
letters  to  young  churches  scattered  around  the 
Mediterranean.  They  shared  these  documents,  which 
supplemented  the  gospel  which  was  preached  by  traveling 
apostles,  teachers,  and  evangelists.  Other  writings  and 
sayings  about  the  life  and  ministry  of  Jesus  were  cherished 
among  them  and  grew  into  the  Gospels  as  we  know  them. 
Mark  is  usually  regarded  as  the  earliest  Gospel.  Matthew 
presumably  drew  from  Mark  and  added  other  trustworthy 
material  from  the  sayings  and  teachings  of  Jesus.  Luke, 
statedly,  used  similar  materials  "just  as  they  were 
delivered  to  us  by  those  who  from  the  beginning  were 
eyewitnesses  and  ministers  of  the  word"  (1:2).  John, 
probably  written  later  than  the  other  three  Gospels,  gives 
us  a  rich  interpretation  of  the  meaning  of  Jesus'  earthly 
advent  as  it  was  taking  deep  rootage  in  the  life  and 
reflection  of  the  church.  In  the  Acts  of  the  Apostles  we 
see  vividly  described  this  growing  and  vital  church 
fellowship.  Here  the  Holy  Spirit  is  active  in  the  midst 
of  the  early  Christians  as  they  bear  witness  to  what  Christ 
meant  to  them.  Here  we  see  the  vigorous  and  discerning 
community  within  which  the  Epistles  and  the  Gospels  were 
written  and  read. 

The  church  has  gathered  these  writings  together  into 
the  Bible,  which  the  church  translates,  revises,  and 
publishes.   It  is  an  amazing  and  creative  combination — a 


26  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

people  of  the  book  of  God  and  a  book  of  the  people  of 
God.  The  original  revelation  in  Jesus  Christ  was 
interpreted  in  the  book.  The  book  finds  continuous 
interpretation  in  the  ongoing  fellowship  of  the  church. 

In  this  framework  we  can  look  with  more  appreciation 
at  a  few  familiar  but  sometimes  vexing  terms  which  are 
still  important  in  matters  of  belief. 

Some  Misunderstood  Terms 

Orthodoxy  is  a  word  often  regarded  as  a  strait  jacket 
on  thought,  requiring  unthinking  conformity  to  static 
formulations  of  belief.  But  it  should  be  taken  to  refer 
to  the  general  consensus  of  Christian  believers  about  their 
faith.  It  refers  to  the  enduring  and  meaningful  under- 
standing which  the  church  has  had  of  the  Bible  and  its 
message. 

Dogma,  a  word  related  to  dogmatic,  is  often  taken  to 
mean  an  arbitrary  and  arrogant  statement  of  required 
belief.  But  the  dogmas  of  the  Christian  faith  represent 
the  consensus  of  belief  which  its  followers  regard  as 
important  and  as  meaningful.  Authority  in  matters  of 
belief  can  become  external  and  can  express  itself  in 
political  pressure,  indeed.  But  the  authority  of  Christian 
belief  lies  in  the  weight  and  worth  of  the  church's  witness 
to  the  truth  in  Christ.  Creeds  are  misused  when  they 
require  external  or  unthinking  conformity  to  a  set  of 
propositions.  They  are  misused  when  they  are  substituted 
for  the  Bible  itself  as  the  final  and  complete  norm  of 
Christian  belief. 

Noncreedal  churches  are  concerned  about  the  dangers 
of  such  misuse,  and  therefore  they  oppose  the  adoption 
of  official  and  authoritative  creeds.  They  try  to  keep  an 
open  Bible  partly  because  they  think  it  is  sufficiently  clear 
on  the  main  points  of  salvation  and  partly  because  they 


The  Nature  and  Credentials  of  Belief  27 

expect  new  light  to  break  forth  from  its  pages  repeatedly. 

Creedal  statements  can  be  useful,  however,  if  they 
are  regarded  as  a  brief  and  memorable  form  of  Christian 
belief  as  it  faces  spurious  substitutes  which  from  time  to 
time  might  threaten  to  replace  Biblical  faith.  It  is  valuable 
to  have,  in  every  age,  short  and  simple  statements  of 
Biblical  faith  which  may  help  to  clarify  and  unify  the 
church's  consensus  on  vital  issues. 

Theology  itself  is  a  term  often  misunderstood.  Some- 
times it  is  made  to  mean  too  much  and  sometimes  it  is 
made  to  mean  too  little.  It  is  a  serious  effort  to  discover, 
expound,  and  defend  the  central  truths  involved  in  the 
experience  of  the  church.  It  is  related  as  a  discipline  or 
a  science  to  other  areas  of  thought  and  inquiry  but  its 
primary  norms  and  concerns  center  in  the  church  and  in 
her  ongoing  life.  In  every  age  the  meaning  of  the  Christian 
faith  must  be  re-examined  so  as  to  bring  it  to  bear  upon 
the  changing  thought  and  experience  of  men.  Such  work 
is  worthy  of  the  same  careful  and  devoted  scholarship  and 
discipline  that  are  given  to  other  areas  of  knowledge.  Only 
so  can  we  love  God  with  all  our  minds. 

Christian    Experience 

A  third  element  in  the  credentials  of  Christian  belief 
is  experience.  It  is,  of  course,  not  presumed  that  Christian 
truth  comes  into  being  when  it  is  a  matter  of  experience. 
The  above  emphasis  on  the  events  of  the  Bible  should 
make  this  clear.  But  within  the  Bible  itself  there  is 
frequent  appeal  to  the  validation  of  experience.  "O  taste 
and  see  that  the  Lord  is  good"  (Psalm  34:8).  "If  any  man's 
will  is  to  do  his  will,  he  shall  know  whether  the  teaching 
is  from  God"  (John  7:17).  The  truths  of  the  Christian 
faith  wait,  for  their  effectiveness,  upon  the  response  of 


28  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

men.  "Behold,  I  stand  at  the  door  and  knock;  if  any  one 
hears  my  voice  and  opens  the  door,  I  will  come  in  to  him 
and  eat  with  him,  and  he  with  me"  (Revelation  3:20). 
The  pathway  into  the  kingdom  of  God  is  open  to  those 
who  tread  it.  Even  the  gift  of  God  requires  to  be  stirred 
up  and  rekindled  (2  Timothy  1:6).  The  sovereign  power 
and  the  outflowing  love  of  God  await  the  response  of  the 
believer.  "Whoever  believes  in  him  shall  not  perish  but 
have  eternal  life"  (John  3:16).  "He  who  believes  and  is 
baptized  will  be  saved"  (Mark  16:16).  Those  who  see  the 
special  significance  of  believer's  baptism  are  impressed  by 
this  fact.  And  even  those  who  practice  infant  baptism 
require  godparents  as  sponsors  and  they  require  confirma- 
tion at  the  time  the  infant  later  reaches  the  age  of 
accountability. 

In  our  consideration  of  experience,  we  should  keep 
several  items  clear. 

Individual  and  Social  Experience 

One  is  that  individual  and  social  experience  need 
to  be  checked  against  each  other.  The  experience  of  the 
group,  the  community,  or  the  race  is  further  validated, 
corrected,  and  enriched  by  the  experience  of  each 
individual.  This  is  especially  true  of  creative  artists, 
pioneers,  and  prophets.  Fifty  million  Frenchmen  might 
be  wrong.  "Where  there  is  no  prophecy  the  people  cast 
off  restraint"  (Proverbs  29:18).  By  the  same  token  the 
novel  and  creative  experiences  of  such  individuals  are 
checked  and  confirmed  by  the  experience  of  the  group 
and  the  community.  The  deviating  nonconformist  or  rebel 
might  be  only  one  more  misguided  "crackpot"  or  stubborn 
paranoiac.  Happily  this  two-way  aspect  of  experience  goes 
on  all  the  time.  For  everyone  born  into  the  world  is  both 
a  private  individual  and  a  participator  in  group  experience. 


The  Nature  and  Credentials  of  Belief  29 

What  applies  to  the  relationship  between  the  individual 
and  his  group  applies  also  between  the  experience  of  one 
group  and  another.  The  Christian  experience  of  one 
area  further  validates,  corrects,  and  enriches  that  of 
another  area.  Likewise  one  era  for  another  era.  Thus 
historical  continuity  and  world-wide  unity  are  the  full 
framework  of  Christian  experience. 

The  Whole  Man  Believes 

Another  item  to  note  about  experience  is  that  beliefs 
are  an  exercise  of  our  total  personalities.  There  is  no  organ 
of  belief.  One  can  say  the  same  about  knowledge  in 
general  and  religious  knowledge  in  particular.  Perception 
and  reason,  conscience  and  mind,  faith  and  the  soul  of 
man — or  however  we  divide  ourselves  up  for  analysis — are 
so  many  aspects  of  the  experiencing  person.  Reason  and 
the  critical  mind  have  their  place,  for  faith  is  not  a  capacity 
to  believe  a  number  of  incredible  things.  We  are  to  test 
everything  and  hold  fast  what  is  good  (1  Thessalonians 
5:21).  Faith  and  the  trusting  spirit  have  their  place  also. 
Even  the  common  knowledge  of  daily  life  as  well  as  the 
accumulated  wealth  of  scientific  understanding  is  set 
within  the  framework  of  assumptions  about  life  and  the 
world  of  nature  which  lie  beyond  proof.  In  the  realm  of 
religious  truth  this  is  even  more  the  case.  There  is  always 
an  aura  of  mystery  beyond  our  precise  certainties.  The 
Christian's  beliefs,  therefore,  retain  even  in  experience 
a  quality  of  hiddenness  and  indemonstrability  where  the 
exercise  of  faith  is  required. 

Our  Experience  Is  of  Things 

The  third  item  is  that  religious  experience,  like  all 
other  experience,  is  an  experience  of  things.  Religion  is 
not  merely  a  quality  or  flavor  of  one's  own  inner  moods. 


30  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

Religious  experience,  like  all  other  experience,  is  a 
relationship  to  an  objective  world  of  reality.  This  world 
is  "out  there"  and  is  what  it  is.  It  is  other  than  our 
experience  of  it.  Christianity  is  not  a  religion  the  truth 
of  which  is  made  up  of  psychic  states.  The  burrs  of  the 
mind  need  grain  to  work  on  in  order  to  produce  flour. 
It  is  the  precise  authority  of  religious  experience  that  it 
points  beyond  itself.  This  is  another  way  of  saying  that 
our  religious  experience  is  an  experience  of  God.  What 
we  believe  is  regarded  as  the  Word  of  God.  Whatever  ideas 
or  truths  we  hold  as  Christians  have  their  basis  in  him. 
Indeed,  the  idea  of  revelation  centers  primarily  in  God's 
own  ability  to  disclose  himself  to  us.  Ours  is  a  God  who 
speaks.  His  word  is  never  mere  propositional  truth  but 
the  address  of  the  Living  One  in  whose  presence  we  stand. 

All  Is  of  the  Holy  Spirit 

This  mode  of  thought  is  what  is  meant  by  the 
Christian  experience  of  the  Holy  Spirit.  In  these  terms 
we  can  correlate  the  three  elements  in  the  credentials  of 
Christian  belief.  The  Bible  is  a  record  of  what  the  Holy 
Spirit  spoke  to  men  and  moved  men  to  write.  To  be  sure, 
they  wrote  in  their  own  language  and  in  their  own  style 
and  idiom.  Their  inspiration  flowed  through  the  full 
equipment  of  their  minds  and  souls.  But  the  writers 
frequently  indicate  that  the  Word  of  God  came  unto  them. 
Sometimes  it  came  in  open  and  eager  meditation.  Again 
it  came  as  a  kind  of  * 'otherness"  with  which  they  wrestled 
and  to  which  they  responded  with  reluctance. 

Our  belief  in  the  inspired  authority  of  the  Bible 
includes  also  a  belief  that  the  Holy  Spirit  presided  over 
the  Christian  community  as  it  preserved  these  documents 
and  as  it  gathered  them  together  in  an  approved  canon. 
He  presides  over  and  inspires  editors  and  committees  who 


The  Nature  and  Credentials  of  Belief  31 

make  new  translations  and  revisions  of  the  Bible  from 
time  to  time.  He  presides  over  and  inspires  the  preachers 
and  teachers  who  interpret  the  Bible.  He  is  present  always 
when  we  open  the  Bible  for  study  and  meditation,  illumi- 
nating the  mind  to  understand  and  quickening  the  soul 
to  believe  what  the  Word  of  God  is.  It  is  a  never-ending 
marvel  indeed  how  the  arrangement  of  letters  on  a  page 
serves  across  the  years  and  around  the  world  as  a  medium 
whereby  God's  own  living  Word  is  given  to  his  people. 

Our  beliefs,  then,  are  the  expression  of  a  deep-seated 
capacity  and  hunger  within  us.  Curiosity  about  the  nature 
of  things,  longing  for  the  true,  the  beautiful,  and  the  good, 
the  impulsion  to  do  that  which  we  see  is  right,  the  desire 
for  adventure  and  achievement — all  these  are  strands  in 
the  golden  cord  of  belief.  They  are  reflections  of  the  image 
of  God  in  man.  Men  are  so  made  "that  they  should  seek 
God,  in  the  hope  that  they  might  feel  after  him  and  find 
him"   (Acts  17:27). 

But  our  belief  is  not  something  we  produce  on  our 
own.  It  represents  the  response  we  make  to  God  as  he 
has  revealed  himself  to  us.  This  disclosure  comes  to  us 
through  the  glory  of  the  heavens  (Psalm  19:1)  and  through 
rains  from  heaven  and  fruitful  seasons  (Acts  14:17).  It 
comes  through  the  prophets  and  the  saints  whom  God 
raises  up  among  men  to  bless  them.  Christian  belief  is 
our  response  to  God's  final  and  sufficient  Word  which  he 
has  spoken  to  us  by  a  Son    (John  1:14;  Hebrews  1:1). 

Belief  is  indeed  a  blessing.  It  is  a  source  of  peace  of 
mind  and  a  sustaining  necessity  of  life.  Christian  belief, 
centering  in  the  advent  of  Jesus  Christ  into  the  world,  is  a 
special  and  inexhaustible  blessing.  Having  seen  him  we 
have  seen  the  Father  (John  14:9).  God  was  in  him 
"reconciling  the  world  to  himself    (2  Corinthians  5:19). 

The  message  of  the  gospel  may  thus  be  simply  stated, 


32  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

and  it  comforts  our  hearts.  To  elaborate  the  full  range  of 
Christian  belief  many  men  have  written  large  volumes 
of  theological  works.  The  purpose  of  the  present  work  is 
to  set  forth  in  a  small  handbook  an  outline  of  Christian 
belief.  It  is  an  attempt  to  do  this  in  terms  of  the  familiar 
benediction:  "The  grace  of  the  Lord  Jesus  Christ  and 
the  love  of  God  and  the  fellowship  of  the  Holy  Spirit  be 
with  you  all"   (2  Corinthians  13:14). 


The  Grace  of  Our  Lord  Jesus  Christ 


Of  all  the  benedictions  in  the  Bible  or  in  the  usage  of  the 
Christian  community  the  one  used  by  Paul  at  the  end  of 
Second  Corinthians  is  perhaps  the  most  familiar  and 
definitive.  It  is  sometimes  called  the  apostolic  benediction, 
though  it  was  written  here  by  one  not  of  the  original 
Twelve.  Like  all  such  short  and  memorable  farewells,  it 
could  have  had  a  wide  currency  at  the  time.  Or  it  may 
have  been  formulated  by  Paul  himself  and  have  come  into 
formal  usage  afterwards.  In  any  case  it  is  true  to  the  central 
beliefs  and  worship  of  the  early  church. 

It  does  not  need  to  imply  that  there  was  at  that 
time  a  fully  articulated  doctrine  of  the  Trinity.  But  in 
this  benediction,  as  in  the  baptismal  formula  in  Matthew 
28:19,  we  have  the  elements  of  early  Christian  belief  and 
worship  which  foreshadowed  the  later  theological  discus- 
sion and  definition. 

The  order  is  significant,  and  it  is  different  from  the 
logic  of  most  systematic  theology.  For  Paul  and  the  early 
Christians  the  starting  point  of  belief  was  at  the  center 
of  their  experience — Jesus  Christ.  He  was  the  specific 
and  definitive  expression  of  God's  character  and  purposes. 
"He  reflects  the  glory  of  God  and  bears  the  very  stamp  of 
his  nature"  (Hebrews  1:3).  His  significance,  moreover, 
is  summed  up  in  the  word  "grace"  This  is  a  word  with 
two  major  meanings.  One  is  charm  and  winsomeness, 
the  ability  to  give  delight  and  pleasure,  as  reflected  in  the 
word  "gracious."    The  other  is  unmerited  favor,  as  in 


34  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

"days  of  grace"  or  "salvation  by  grace"  For  the  early 
Christians  close  to  Jesus,  he  had  both  of  these  meanings. 
He  was  "the  lily  of  the  valley,  the  bright  and  morning 
star,  .  .  .  the  fairest  of  ten  thousand  to  the  soul"  He  was 
also  the  expression  of  God's  unmerited  favor.  It  was 
through  this  amazing  grace  that  they  came  to  know  the 
Father's  love  and  that  they  were  bound  together  in  a  new 
community,  the  fellowship  of  the  Holy  Spirit. 


' 


CHAPTER  TWO 


The  Man  Christ  Jesus 


Christianity  is  primarily  a  religion  of  a  person,  it  has 
a  book  of  sacred  scripture.  It  has  many  doctrines  and 
precepts.  It  has  organization  and  ritual.  But  beyond  all  of 
these  is  its  center  of  interest  and  devotion — "the  man 
Christ  Jesus' '  (1  Timothy  2:5).  Its  view  of  God  centers  in 
him.  Its  view  of  man's  true  nature  derives  from  him.  The 
life  of  the  church  flows  from  him.  Its  hope  for  the  world 
lies  in  him,  as  does  its  assurance  in  the  world  to  come. 
One  can  open  the  New  Testament  almost  anywhere 
and  his  towering  figure  fills  the  whole  horizon.  "The 
beginning  of  the  gospel  of  Jesus  Christ,  the  Son  of  God" 
(Mark  1:1).  "And  the  Word  became  flesh  and  dwelt 
among  us,  full  of  grace  and  truth;  we  have  beheld  his 
glory,  glory  as  of  the  only  Son  from  the  Father"  (John 
1:14).  "And  there  is  salvation  in  no  one  else,  for  there  is 
no  other  name  under  heaven  given  among  men  by  which 
we  must  be  saved"  (Acts  4:12).  "At  the  name  of  Jesus 
every  knee  should  bow,  in  heaven  and  on  earth  and 
under  the  earth,  and  every  tongue  confess  that  Jesus  Christ 
is  Lord,  to  the  glory  of  God  the  Father"  (Philippians 
2:10,  11).  "Since  then  we  have  a  great  high  priest  who 
has  passed  through  the  heavens,  Jesus,  the  Son  of  God, 
let  us  hold  fast  our  confession"  (Hebrews  4:14).  "My 
brethren,  show  no  partiality  as  you  hold  the  faith  of  our 
Lord  Jesus  Christ,  the  Lord  of  glory"  (James  2:1).  "To 
him  who  loves  us  and  has  freed  us  from  our  sins  by  his 
blood  and  made  us  a  kingdom,  priests  to  his  God  and 


36  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

Father,  to  him  be  glory  and  dominion  for  ever  and  ever. 
Amen"    (Revelation  1:5b,  6). 

Thus  the  Gospels,  the  Acts,  the  Epistles,  and  Revela- 
tion all  have  one  overwhelming  and  illuminating  center. 
In  none  of  the  world's  other  religions  is  the  founder  so 
vivid  and  matchless  in  character  or  so  central  and  dominant 
in  influence  as  is  Jesus  for  Christianity.  Moses  is  noted  for 
the  Law  which  he  gave  to  his  people.  Buddha  comforted 
his  disciples  by  reminding  them  that  after  he  was  gone 
they  would  still  have  his  teachings.  Mohammed  was  only 
a  special  prophet  of  Allah.  Indeed,  today  his  followers 
insist  that  the  correct  name  for  their  religion  is  not 
Mohammedanism  but  Islam,  the  religion  of  submission. 
Jesus  was  and  is  different,  for  he  said,  "I  am  the  way, 
and  the  truth,  and  the  life"  (John  14:6).  "And  lo,  I  am 
with  you  always,  to  the  close  of  the  age"  (Matthew  28:20). 

To  understand  the  Christian  faith,  therefore,  it  is 
important  to  clarify  our  beliefs  about  Jesus  Christ.  What 
we  believe  centers  about  the  doctrine  of  his  person  and 
the  doctrine  of  his  work;  who  he  was  and  is,  and  what  he 
did  and  does.  The  doctrine  of  Christ's  person  is  based 
on  two  convictions  about  him:  that  he  was  a  man  and 
that  he  was  more  than  a  man.  These  two  convictions  raise 
many  problems  for  Christian  thought  and  much  con- 
troversy has  marked  the  history  of  this  thought.  But  the 
convictions  are  based  on  the  impact  Jesus  Christ  made 
and  makes  on  his  followers.  Let  us  look  at  the  reasons 
for  the  convictions.  How  we  relate  them  to  each  other 
in  our  thought  is  a  subsidiary  matter.  Let  us  look  first 
at  the  humanity  of  Jesus. 

Jesus  Was  Truly  Human 

The  whole  doctrine  of  the  incarnation  is  based  on 
the  real  humanity  of  Jesus.   As  John  puts  it,  "the  Word 


The  Man  Christ  Jesus  37 

became  flesh"  (John  1:14).  This  word  flesh  is  one  often 
contrasted  with  spirit  and  is  thus  concrete  and  explicit. 
It  is  a  repudiation  of  all  Gnostic  discounting  of  man's 
physical  nature.  Paul  confirms  the  humanity  in  these 
terms:  "But  when  the  time  had  fully  come,  God  sent  forth 
his  Son,  born  of  woman,  born  under  the  law"  (Galatians 
4:4).  "Being  born  in  the  likeness  of  men.  And  being 
found  in  human  form"  (Philippians  2:7b-8a).  "Sending 
his  own  Son  in  the  likeness  of  sinful  flesh"  (Romans  8:3). 
"The  man  Christ  Jesus"   (1  Timothy  2:5). 

The  birth  stories  in  Matthew  and  Luke  are  fully  as 
concerned  to  affirm  his  real  humanity  as  his  supernatural 
qualities.  The  event  is  set  within  definite  historical  limits. 
Caesar  Augustus  was  emperor  in  Rome.  Quirinius  was 
governor  in  Syria.  Herod  was  king  in  Jerusalem.  The 
birth  was  in  Judea,  while  the  parents  were  on  a  journey 
from  Nazareth,  where  they  lived,  to  Bethlehem,  where 
they  were  being  enrolled.  Heavenly  as  all  this  story  is, 
its  purpose  is  to  show  when  and  where  this  Jesus  came 
"out  of  the  everywhere  into  the  here." 

The  New  Testament  emphasized  this  humanity  not 
as  a  concession  to  or  as  an  incidental  aspect  of  Christ's 
nature  but  as  an  essential  part  of  it.  Indeed,  the  earliest 
heresy  about  his  personal  nature  was  a  denial  of  his  real 
humanity.  This  erroneous  Gnostic  view  is  reflected  in 
the  New  Testament's  vigorous  denial.  "For  many 
deceivers  have  gone  out  into  the  world,  men  who  will  not 
acknowledge  the  coming  of  Jesus  Christ  in  the  flesh;  such 
a  one  is  the  deceiver  and  the  antichrist"    (2  John  7). 

A  Human  Body 

This  idea  of  humanity  means  that  Jesus  Christ  was 
a  man  physically.  The  above  references  are  clear  on  this. 
They  are  supported  by  others.    He  grew  in  stature  from 


38  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

childhood  to  manhood  (Luke  2:40,  52).  When  fully 
grown  he  underwent  the  usual  bodily  experiences  of 
fatigue  (John  4:6)  and  sleep  (Mark  4:38;  Luke  8:23).  He 
became  hungry  after  a  long  fast  (Luke  4:2)  and  on  other 
occasions  as  well  (Mark  11:12).  He  became  thirsty,  and 
used  this  as  a  point  of  contact  for  deeper  sharing  (John 
4:6,  7).  One  mark  of  the  hot  anguish  on  the  cross  was  the 
cry,  "I  thirst"  (John  19:28).  So  given  was  he  to  the 
normal  fellowship  of  eating  and  drinking  that  his 
enemies  called  him  a  glutton  and  a  drunkard  (Luke  7:34). 
His  physical  humanity  is  inherent  in  his  suffering  and 
death.  All  four  Gospels  give  extended  space  to  his  agony 
and  death  and  the  record  is  given  in  great  detail.  When- 
ever men  have  minimized  his  real  physical  humanity, 
with  however  exalted  motives,  they  have  deviated  from 
the  earthly  actuality  of  "the  days  of  his  flesh"  (Hebrews 
5:7).  No  recovery  of  emphasis  upon  his  humanity  in  the 
last  hundred  years  goes  beyond  the  testimony  of  the  New 
Testament.  Men  may  write  imaginary  biographies  of  the 
Man  from  Nazareth  which  carry  an  air  of  vivid  truth.  But 
their  authenticity  lies  in  the  solid  gospel  records. 

A  Human  Mind 

He  was  also  human  psychologically.  He  grew  in 
wisdom  as  he  did  in  stature  (Luke  2:52).  He  asked 
questions,  evidently  expecting  answers  for  information 
(Luke  2:46).  On  one  occasion  he  said  he  did  not  know 
the  day  or  the  hour  of  future  events  (Mark  13:32).  He 
experienced  human  emotions.  He  knew  sorrow.  When 
John  the  Baptist  was  killed  "he  withdrew  from  there  in 
a  boat  to  a  lonely  place  apart"  (Matthew  14:13;  see  also 
Mark  6:31).  When  his  friend  Lazarus  died  he  wept  (John 
11:35).  He  knew  joy  also  (Luke  10:21)  and  even  anger 
(Mark  3:5). 


The  Man  Christ  Jesus  39 

A  Human  Spirit 

He  was  human  in  the  moral  and  spiritual  sense.  Some 
very  devout  people  find  difficulty  here,  but  the  record 
is  clear  and  explicit.  Three  of  the  Gospels  report  his 
temptation  in  the  wilderness  following  his  baptism 
(Matthew  4:1-11;  Mark  1:12,  13;  Luke  4:1-13).  While 
these  temptations  were  set  in  terms  of  an  extraordinary 
divine  calling,  they  were  all  appeals  to  a  human  personality 
and  were  directed  to  elemental  desires  for  food,  for  a  short 
cut  to  success,  and  for  power.  After  this  temptation  the 
devil  "departed  from  him  until  an  opportune  time" 
(Luke  4:13). 

Evidently  these  temptations,  connected  as  they  were 
with  his  messianic  mission,  were  recurrent.  Thus  he 
rebuked  Peter's  well-meant  aversion  to  his  suffering  in 
the  startling  words,  "Get  behind  me,  Satan!"  (Mark 
8:33).  The  climax  of  this  moral  struggle  was  in 
Gethsemane.  "And  being  in  an  agony  he  prayed  more 
earnestly;  and  his  sweat  became  like  great  drops  of  blood 
falling  down  upon  the  ground"  (Luke  22:44).  The 
Epistle  to  the  Hebrews  puts  this  moral  development  in 
bold  terms,  indeed.  "In  the  days  of  his  flesh,  Jesus  offered 
up  prayers  and  supplications,  with  loud  cries  and  tears,  to 
him  who  was  able  to  save  him  from  death,  and  he  was 
heard  for  his  godly  fear.  Although  he  was  a  Son,  he 
learned  obedience  through  what  he  suffered"  (5:7,  8). 
'Tor  we  have  not  a  high  priest  who  is  unable  to  sympathize 
with  our  weaknesses,  but  one  who  in  every  respect  has 
been  tempted  as  we  are,  yet  without  sinning"   (4:15). 

The  Gracious  Character  of  Jesus 

A  generation  ago  it  was  the  fashion  to  write  "Lives"  of 
Jesus  depicting  in  vivid  terms  the  personal  traits  of  this 


40  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

man  from  Nazareth.  This  'Jesus  of  History"  was  some- 
times analyzed  and  portrayed  with  little  reference  to  the 
high  Christology  of  the  New  Testament.  Attempts  were 
made  to  get  back  behind  the  "Christ  of  Faith"  as  set  forth 
in  the  Epistles  and  in  John's  Gospel  to  the  simple  man 
of  Galilee.  One  tendency  of  these  studies  was  a  glib 
identification  of  Jesus  and  his  teachings  with  whatever 
social  movement  the  author  was  espousing.  Accordingly 
Jesus  was  seen  now  as  a  labor  leader  and  now  as  a  highly 
successful  business  executive  with  a  genius  for  advertising 
and  salesmanship. 

It  is  important  to  learn,  then,  the  peril  of  modernizing 
Jesus.  The  quest  of  the  historical  Jesus  is  based  upon  a 
very  limited  amount  of  material.  The  record  of  his 
personality  and  character  is  limited  to  the  New  Testament. 
The  Gospels  report  only  one  eleventh  of  his  life  span.  It 
is  estimated  that  they  mention  what  he  did  or  said  on  only 
from  thirty  to  thirty-five  days.  This  would  be  only  one 
three-hundredth  part  of  his  thirty-three  years  of  earthly 
career.  We  have  no  photograph  of  him  and  no  tape- 
recording  of  his  voice.  It  is  not  possible  to  fill  out  with 
any  fullness  the  vivid  details  of  his  appearance  and  manner 
or  to  have  a  complete  account  of  his  personal  character. 

However,  it  is  not  our  loss  that  in  the  providence  of 
God  we  lack  these  details  concerning  Christ  after  the 
flesh,  for  it  is  possible  to  see  in  the  New  Testament  a 
portrait  of  the  man  Christ  Jesus.  This  portrait,  being  a 
combination  of  events  and  interpretation,  enables  us  to 
see  the  character  of  Jesus  in  depth.  It  is  three-dimensional 
in  perspective  rather  than  a  two-dimensional  "candid 
camera"  picture.  The  racy  narrative  of  Mark  combines 
with  the  added  materials  of  Matthew  and  Luke  and  the 
spiritual  understanding  of  John  to  give  us  a  vivid  and 
inescapable  impression  of  Jesus  Christ  our  Lord. 


The  Man  Christ  Jesus  41 

It  is  important  to  remember  that  the  personal  qualities 
and  character  traits  of  this  particular  man  in  history  so 
impressed  his  followers  that  they  left  all  else  to  be  in  his 
company  and  gave  to  him  the  lordship  over  their  lives. 
The  word  they  used  to  indicate  the  impression  he  made 
was  grace.  His  gracious  and  winning  life  was  the  light 
of  men.  Many  are  the  ways  he  showed  it  but  there  is  space 
and  need  for  only  a  few  examples. 

His  Sympathy  and  Compassion 

His  grace  and  charm  were  shown,  for  example,  by  his 
sympathy  and  compassion.  His  works  of  healing  were  not 
primarily  signs.  They  were  not  advertising  techniques  to 
secure  a  following.  Indeed,  he  sought  to  avoid  the  kind 
of  publicity  such  spectacular  deeds  would  arouse.  He 
knew  that  an  evil  and  adulterous  generation  seeks  a  sign 
and  hence  he  declared,  "No  sign  shall  be  given"  (Mark 
8:12).  And  yet  he  went  on  healing  all  manner  of  diseases 
and  feeding  the  multitude.  The  motive  is  clearly  stated- 
he  was  moved  with  compassion.  Even  on  the  last  tragic 
trip  to  Jerusalem  he  had  time  to  stop  his  entourage  and 
heal  a  blind  man  at  Jericho  (Luke  18:42).  This  mood 
of  compassion  has  ever  since  been  graciously  recalled  in 
the  phrase,  "Jesus  of  Nazareth  passeth  by"  (Luke  18:37, 
King  James  Version). 

His  Meekness  and  Humility 

His  grace  and  charm  were  shown  in  his  meekness  and 
humility.  He  said  of  himself,  "I  am  gentle  and  lowly  in 
heart"  (Matthew  11:29).  He  pronounced  one  of  his 
beatitudes  upon  the  meek  (Matthew  5:5).  His  triumphal 
entry  into  Jerusalem  was  an  enacted  parable  of  the  kind  of 
king  he  was  willing  to  be — not  with  the  might  of  armies 
or  the  power  of  the  sceptre  but  "humble  and  mounted  on 


42  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

an  ass"  (Matthew  21:5).  He  would  not  be  the  kind  of 
benefactor  who  would  lord  it  over  his  subjects  but  one 
who  was  in  their  midst  as  a  servant  (Mark  10:42-45).  His 
disarming  humility  overwhelmed  his  disciples  as  he  washed 
their  feet.  Their  pride  and  contentiousness  were  broken 
and  they  were  drawn  to  him  and  to  each  other  forever 
(John  13:1-35). 

This  meekness  and  humility  were  shown  in  his 
poverty.  In  his  earthly  life  he  had  nowhere  to  lay  his  head 
(Luke  9:58).  Had  he  been  rich  there  might  have  been 
a  subtle  wall  between  him  and  his  friends,  for  wealth  is 
often  like  a  moat  around  a  castle  across  which  no  bridge 
can  reach.  He  came  into  the  world  with  no  pomp  or 
pretense  and  in  this  humble  status  lay  his  appeal.  Paul  was 
impressed  by  this  fact.  'Tor  you  know  the  grace  of  our 
Lord  Jesus  Christ,  that  though  he  was  rich,  yet  for  your 
sake  he  became  poor,  so  that  by  his  poverty  you  might 
become  rich"   (2  Corinthians  8:9). 

His  Friendships 

His  grace  and  charm  were  shown  in  his  friendships. 
He  had  genuine  love  for  all  sorts  and  conditions  of  people. 
Rich  and  poor,  men  and  women,  high  and  low,  respectable 
and  outcasts — all  had  access  to  his  friendship.  His  affection 
for  children  was  particularly  notable  in  one  of  such  moral 
earnestness  and  with  such  a  weighty  mission.  Mark  gives 
us  the  familiar  and  charming  picture  of  his  taking  a  child 
in  his  arms  (Mark  9:36).  Mothers  of  children  brought 
them  to  him,  that  he  might  touch  them  (Matthew  19:13). 
His  characteristic  delight  in  them  was  expressed  in  the 
injunction,  "Let  the  children  come  to  me,  do  not  hinder 
them;  for  to  such  belongs  the  kingdom  of  God"  (Mark 
10:14). 

His  friendships  spread  clear  across  the  spectrum  from 


The  Man  Christ  Jesus  43 

ultraviolet  "blue  bloods' '  at  one  end  to  infrared  "parlor 
pinks"  at  the  other.  Thus  Nicodemus  and  Joseph  were  his 
friends  within  the  Sanhedrin  and  among  his  disciples  there 
was  a  fiery  revolutionist  named  Simon  the  Zealot.  He  had 
the  disarming  simplicity  and  directness  which  enabled 
him  to  cut  through  conventionality  and  bridge  social 
distance.  His  conversations  were  person-to-person  engage- 
ments with  now  a  centurion  (Luke  7:2-10),  now  a  leper 
(Mark  1:40-45),  now  a  tax  collector  (Mark  2:13-17),  and 
now  a  grief-stricken  mother  mourning  her  departed  son 
(Luke  7:11-16). 

These  friendships  often  involved  him  in  much  risk  of 
social  disapproval,  as  in  the  cases  of  Levi  (Mark  2:16),  and 
Zacchaeus  (Luke  19:7),  the  Gerasene  demoniac  (Luke 
8:37),  and  the  woman  who  anointed  his  feet  in  Simon's 
house  (Luke  7:39).  Indeed,  he  had  a  special  interest  in 
the  underprivileged  and  distressed  and  he  sought  them  out 
to  befriend  them.  He  explained  his  acts  in  these  words: 
"Those  who  are  well  have  no  need  of  a  physician,  but  those 
who  are  sick;  I  came  not  to  call  the  righteous,  but  sinners" 
(Mark  2:17). 

Perhaps  the  climax  of  his  love  and  friendliness  was 
in  his  attitude  toward  his  enemies.  Very  early  in  his  career 
they  sought  to  discount  and  hinder  his  ministry,  especially 
when  he  healed  on  the  Sabbath.  "And  he  looked  around 
at  them  with  anger,  grieved  at  their  hardness  of  heart" 
(Mark  3:5).  He  had  repeated  occasions  of  such  opposition 
from  the  Pharisees  and  rulers,  and  he  sought  to  shock 
them  with  the  woes  which  awaited  them.  But  he  still 
yearned  over  them  and  pronounced  his  judgments  out  of 
a  broken  heart  (Luke  13:34,  35).  At  long  last  while  on  the 
cross  he  offered  the  incredible  prayer  for  his  enemies  who 
were  crucifying  him,  "Father,  forgive  them;  for  they  know 
not  what  they  do"    (Luke  23:34). 


44  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

His  Moral  Earnestness 

Another  aspect  of  his  charm  and  appeal  was  his  moral 
earnestness  and  loyalty  to  God's  righteous  will.  One  must 
love  God  with  all  his  heart,  soul,  mind,  and  strength 
(Mark  12:30).  One  must  seek  first  God's  kingdom  and 
his  righteousness  (Matthew  6:33).  Even  loyalty  to  one's 
family  is  to  be  sternly  subordinated  to  devotion  to  God's 
will.  "Whoever  does  the  will  of  God  is  my  brother,  and 
sister,  and  mother"  (Mark  3:35).  The  touchstone  whereby 
he  was  guided  in  his  temptations  in  the  wilderness  and  in 
Gethsemane  was  the  will  of  God.  Jesus  interpreted  God's 
will  in  absolute  terms.  Moses  made  allowance  for  hardness 
of  heart.  But  Jesus  did  not  see  it  that  way.  For  him  the 
claim  of  God  is  for  a  man  to  be  morally  perfect. 

Some  persons  attempt  to  soften  these  claims  by 
regarding  Jesus'  statements  as  Oriental  exaggerations  or 
as  picturesque  metaphors  which  must  be  adapted  to 
practical  problems.  But  the  way  Jesus  set  his  face  to  go 
to  Jerusalem  and  the  unflinching  integrity  with  which  he 
endured  his  passion  make  clear  how  earnest  he  was  in 
doing  God's  will.  To  be  sure,  there  was  a  glad  and  joyous 
quality  to  his  obedience.  "He  who  sent  me  is  with  me; 
he  has  not  left  me  alone,  for  I  always  do  what  is  pleasing 
to  him"  (John  8:29).  Out  of  this  ready  and  sustained 
personal  loyalty  to  God's  righteous  will,  Jesus  calls  upon 
his  disciples  then  and  now  to  deny  themselves,  take  up 
their  own  crosses,  and  follow  him    (Mark  8:34). 

This  call  to  discipleship  has  ever  been  one  of  the 
challenging  and  winsome  features  of  Jesus'  influence  on 
men.  At  times  it  is  extremely  frightening.  "And  they  were 
on  the  road,  going  up  to  Jerusalem,  and  Jesus  was  walking 
ahead  of  them;  and  they  were  amazed,  and  those  who 
followed  were  afraid"  (Mark  10:32).  Such  utter  loyalty 
to  God's  righteous  will   has   ever  had  a  haunting  and 


The  Man  Christ  Jesus  45 

disturbing  charm  and  grace.  In  this  as  in  other  qualities 
of  his  character  it  can  be  said  that  he  was  "full  of  grace 
and  truth"    (John  1:14). 

Books  have  been  filled  with  the  varied  qualities  of  his 
character.  These  are  not  to  dissect  his  personality  but  to 
make  vivid  to  ourselves  the  full  and  sincere  power  of 
"the  man  Christ  Jesus/'  It  is  to  expose  ourselves  to  him 
as  the  early  disciples  did,  to  come  near  to  him  and  look  at 
him  through  their  eyes. 

Implications  of  the  Humanity  of  Jesus  Christ 

So  strong  has  been  the  tendency  among  devout 
Christians  to  stress  the  deity  of  Christ  and  obscure  his 
humanity  that  it  is  well  to  look  at  the  implications  of  the 
latter. 

God  Works  in  History 

It  confirms  the  fact  that  God  works  concretely  in 
history.  The  Old  Testament  is  replete  with  God's  actions 
in  nature.  He  is  regarded  as  the  Lord  of  heaven  and  earth. 
This  belief  is  akin  to  what  many  other  nature  gods  are 
presumed  to  do.  But  God  is  also  regarded  as  in  control 
of  the  rise  and  fall  of  nations.  Their  destiny  is  presided 
over  by  his  inescapable  power.  However  wayward  they 
may  become,  the  day  of  the  Lord  will  come  when  his 
righteous  will  will  be  done.  Thus,  in  the  fullness  of  time 
this  man  "born  of  woman,  born  under  the  law"  was  sent 
by  God  as  the  agent  of  his  will.  The  centuries  of  Israel's 
experience  and  the  long  years  of  Judah's  hoping  were 
fulfilled  by  him  in  the  very  texture  of  ongoing  historical 
experience.  This  was  not  a  universal  principle  or  an 
abstract  idea  but  a  specific  event  in  which  God  was  working 
out  his  will.  It  was  not  merely  God's  act  upon  history 
but  his  working  within  it. 


46  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

God  Honors  Personality 

Another  implication  is  that  God  honors  human 
personality.  By  the  Christian  faith  man  is  regarded  as 
having  his  source  in  God.  The  pagan  poets  affirmed  that 
"we  are  indeed  his  offspring"  (Acts  17:28).  Even  in  our 
own  day  the  measurement  of  personality  breaks  down 
when  the  intelligent  quotient  goes  beyond  one  hundred 
forty.  Then  we  quit  measuring  and  speak  of  genius.  The 
word  genius  is  a  religious  term  which  seeks  to  explain  a 
person  by  ascribing  his  power  to  some  spiritual  being 
within  him  which  takes  possession  of  him  and  makes  him 
what  he  is!  These  are  intimations  of  the  deep  wealth 
of  human  personality.  In  the  man  Christ  Jesus  we  see 
man  at  his  best  and  as  God  intends  him  to  be.  The  image 
of  God  in  man  from  creation  may  be  marred  and  distorted. 
But  here  we  have  in  a  human  figure  "the  very  stamp  of 
his  nature"  (Hebrews  1:3).  This  is  a  man  whose  character 
was  known  by  his  followers.  They  had  seen  him  with 
their  eyes  and  their  hands  had  handled  him.  Thus  God, 
who  reveals  himself,  in  a  measure,  through  nature  and 
through  the  processes  of  history,  gives  his  climaxing 
disclosure  through  a  man. 

Our  Moral  Example 

Closely  related  to  this  is  the  clear  implication  that, 
since  Jesus  Christ  is  a  man,  he  can  serve  as  the  moral 
example  of  his  followers.  To  be  sure,  there  were  and  are 
aspects  of  his  person  and  his  work  which  differ  from,  and 
are  well  beyond,  the  part  of  his  followers.  In  profound 
ways  he  does  for  us  what  we  cannot  do  for  ourselves.  We 
shall  have  occasion  to  discuss  these  later.  But  no  high 
Christology  can  lessen  the  claim  of  his  example  upon  us. 

His  moral  teachings,  given  in  occasional  parables 
and  more  formally  in  the  Sermon  on  the  Mount,  are  set 


The  Man  Christ  Jesus  47 

forth  with  explicit  claims  upon  our  obedience.  "If  any 
man  has  ears  to  hear,  let  him  hear"  (Mark  4:23).  Those 
who  hear  and  do  not  obey  are  like  a  foolish  builder  upon 
sand.  Those  who  hear  and  do  are  like  a  wise  builder  upon 
rock  (Matthew  7:24-27).  In  the  washing  of  his  disciples' 
feet  his  word  is  explicit:  "For  I  have  given  you  an  example, 
that  you  also  should  do  as  I  have  done  to  you"  (John 
13:15).  This  applies  not  merely  to  a  ritual  act  but  to  the 
whole  pattern  of  mutual  deference  and  service. 

His  exemplary  character  inheres  also  in  the  higher 
religious  levels  of  his  life.  He  is  our  example  in  prayer. 
Indeed,  it  was  his  own  prayer  life  which  led  his  disciples 
to  the  request,  "Lord,  teach  us  to  pray"  (Luke  11:1-4). 
He  is  our  example  also  in  self-denial  and  cross-bearing. 
The  very  cross  which  is  the  symbol  of  his  free  gift  of  grace 
to  us  is  also  the  symbol  of  his  highest  claim  upon  us. 
"Whoever  does  not  bear  his  own  cross  and  come  after  me, 
cannot  be  my  disciple"  (Luke  14:27).  The  early 
Christians,  who  were  quite  clear  on  being  saved  by  grace, 
were  also  clear  on  this  point.  Paul  urged  the  Philippians 
to  have  the  mind  of  Christ  as  exemplified  in  the  cross 
(Philippians  2:5-8).  The  writer  to  the  Hebrews  made  his 
climaxing  exhortation  on  this  theme.  "Consider  him  who 
endured  from  sinners  such  hostility  against  himself,  so 
that  you  may  not  grow  weary  or  faint-hearted.  In  your 
struggle  against  sin  you  have  not  yet  resisted  to  the  point 
of  shedding  your  blood"  (Hebrews  12:3,  4).  It  is  note- 
worthy that  the  classic  phrase,  "in  his  steps,"  is  set  in  this 
same  framework.  "For  to  this  you  have  been  called, 
because  Christ  also  suffered  for  you,  leaving  you  an 
example,  that  you  should  follow  in  his  steps  (1  Peter  2:21). 

Through  the  centuries  and  today  the  high  moral 
example  of  Jesus  has  been  variedly  discounted.  Some  have 
objected  to  "example-ism"  in  order  to  make  clear  that  we 


48  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

are  saved  by  faith  and  not  by  works.  Others  have  objected 
to  such  a  view  of  Christ's  example  as  perfectionism.  It 
overlooks  the  depths  of  sin  in  man's  nature,  it  is  argued, 
and,  at  best,  it  covers  up  by  hypocrisy  the  pride  of  moral 
achievement  which  besets  those  who  pretend  to  follow 
in  his  steps.  Underlying  these  objections  is  the  assumption 
that  Jesus  Christ  is  divine  and  we  are  human  and  therefore 
he  cannot  serve  as  our  moral  example.  But  the  Biblical 
record  is  explicit  and  the  logic  is  clear.  The  man  Christ 
Jesus  is  our  moral  example. 

A  Sympathetic  Redeemer 

The  humanity  of  Jesus  Christ  means  also  that  his 
work  for  our  redemption  is  valid.  Let  us  grant  readily 
that  our  sins  require  that  something  be  done  for  us  which 
we  cannot  do  for  ourselves.  Indeed,  the  high  moral 
example  of  Jesus  Christ  intensifies  for  us  this  need  of  help. 
It  is  equally  certain  that  this  help  must  come  from  God 
himself.  In  the  whole  drama  of  redemption  the  deity  of 
Christ  is  a  basic  element  of  Christian  belief.  But  his  real 
humanity  is  likewise  basic.  It  is  a  God-man  who  closes 
the  gap  between  God  and  man.  "There  is  one  mediator 
between  God  and  men,  the  man  Christ  Jesus"  (1  Timothy 
2:5).  No  one  in  the  New  Testament  exalts  the  person  of 
Jesus  Christ  more  than  does  the  writer  to  the  Hebrews. 
But  he  also  affirms  with  equal  stress  the  actuality  of  his 
humanity.  This  is  done,  moreover,  in  terms  of  his 
redemptive  work  as  our  faithful  high  priest.  The  fuller 
meaning  of  the  atonement  will  be  discussed  later.  Our 
present  stress  is  on  the  relevance  of  Christ's  humanity  to 
that  belief.  "For  we  have  not  a  high  priest  who  is  unable 
to  sympathize  with  our  weaknesses,  but  one  who  in  every 
respect  has  been  tempted  as  we  are,  yet  without  sinning" 
(Hebrews  4:15). 


The  Man  Christ  Jesus  49 

The  Word  Was  Made  Flesh 

"The  grace  of  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ"  is  a  benediction 
prayer  which  is  based  on  our  beliefs  about  his  person  and 
about  his  work.  We  have  explored  one  belief  about  his 
person  —  that  he  was  a  man.  As  Carlyle  put  it,  he  was 
"a  man  who  ate  victuals."  He  was  a  Palestinian  Jew.  And 
Shakespeare,  in  The  Merchant  of  Venice,  says,  "Hath  not 
a  Jew  eyes?  hath  not  a  Jew  hands,  organs,  dimensions, 
senses,  affections,  passions?"  It  is  the  Christian's  belief 
that  he  was  such  a  man.  To  be  sure,  many  of  the  last 
generation's  "Lives"  of  Jesus  were  written  from  a  limited 
or  mistaken  point  of  view.  "Liberal"  and  "modern" 
theology  omitted  much  of  essential  Christian  belief  about 
Jesus  Christ.  The  attempts  to  delineate  the  character  of 
"the  Jesus  of  history"  apart  from  the  full  Biblical  belief 
about  his  person  and  work  are  under  justifiable  criticism 
in  current  theological  thought.  But  present-day  correc- 
tives, even  though  under  the  guise  of  "orthodoxy,"  swing 
the  pendulum  too  far  in  the  opposite  direction.  They 
stress  the  "Christ  of  faith"  with  little  or  no  reference  to 
what  Jesus  Christ  was  like  "in  the  days  of  his  flesh."  In 
the  name  of  the  divine  they  overlook  the  human  side  of 
the  incarnation. 

No  more  impressive  and  satisfying  discussion  of  the 
broader  theological  aspects  of  current  Christology  has 
appeared  than  Professor  Donald  M.  Baillie's  God  Was 
in  Christ.  He  cuts  a  path  through  the  confusion  in  these 
summarizing  words: 

If  it  is  true  that  "no  man  can  say,  Jesus  is  Lord,  except  in 
the  Holy  Spirit,"  it  is  equally  true  that  no  man  can  say  it,  in  the 
truly  Christian  sense,  except  through  a  knowledge  of  what  Jesus 
actually  was,  as  a  human  personality,  in  the  days  of  His  flesh.  In 
the  ages  of  authority  Christians  may  indeed  have  largely  dispensed 
with  this,  and  Christian  faith,  however  impoverished,  managed  to 
live  without  it.  But  in  the  modern  age  of  criticism  and  questioning, 


50  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

the  rediscovery  of  the  human  historical  personality  came  as  a  new 
realization  of  the  historical  content  of  the  dogmas:  men  found  in 
the  Gospel  story  a  real  human  personality  which  constrained  them 
to  say,  with  the  Church  and  in  the  Holy  Spirit,  "Jesus  is  Lord,"  and 
"God  was  in  Christ,"  and  "The  Word  was  made  flesh."1 

This  modern  rediscovery  of  the  man  Christ  Jesus  finds 
its  valid  sources  in  the  New  Testament,  as  this  chapter  has 
sought  to  show.  In  these  sources,  however,  another  con- 
viction is  equally  clear.  Jesus  Christ  was  more  than  a  man. 
The  Christian  faith  includes  the  belief  also  in  the  deity 
of  Christ.  To  that  we  shall  turn  in  the  next  chapter. 


1  D.  M.  Baillie,  God  Was  in  Christ   (New  York:    Scribners,  1948),  page  52. 


CHAPTER  THREE 


Christ,  the  Son  of  the  Living  God 


Jesus  christ  is  such  a  man  that  he  has  always  been 
regarded  as  more  than  a  man.  Nearly  a  century  ago 
Horace  Bushnell  wrote  a  book  entitled  The  Character  of 
Jesus  and  added  as  a  subtitle  "Forbidding  His  Possible 
Classification  With  Men."1  A  modern  book  is  more 
tempered  than  that  but  calls  attention  to  the  same 
insistence  of  Christians  that  Christ  was  more  than  a  man. 

It  would  be  impossible  to  show  that  any  of  the  many  ways  in 
which  Jesus  has  been  interpreted  in  the  Church  —  whether  as 
Messiah,  Son  of  God,  Logos,  Lord  and  Savior,  or  under  any  other 
title —  is  essential  to  the  Church's  life,  but  I  see  no  reason  to  suppose 
that  the  Church  could  long  survive  the  surrender  of  the  belief 
that  the  career  of  Jesus  marks  a  supremely  significant  moment 
in  the  life  of  man.  One  who  finds  himself  compelled  to  give  up 
that  belief  and  to  regard  Jesus  merely  as  prophet  or  saint  or  as  a 
member  of  some  other  human  category — however  high  that  category 
may  be — such  a  person  has  severed  one  of  the  ties  binding  him  to 
the  historic  Church.2 

These  views  reflect  briefly  and  perhaps  dimly  what 

is  claimant  and  many  splendor ed  in  the  New  Testament. 

There  is  no  formal  or  schematized  doctrine  of  Christ's 

deity  there.  Indeed,  the  New  Testament  is  not  primarily 

an  outline  of  Christian  doctrine.    But  we  do  find  there 

certain  lines  along  which  the  early  followers  of  Jesus 

Christ  were  convinced  of  his  exalted  nature  and  the  ways 

in  which  they  sought  to  express  this  conviction. 

1  Horace   Bushnell,    The   Character   of  Jesus    (New   York:     Scribners,    1860). 
a  John  Knox,  The  Man  Christ  Jesus  (Chicago:    Willett,  Clark,  and  Company, 
1942).  page  17. 


52  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

Evidences  of  Christ's  Deity 

The  reasons  for  believing  in  Christ's  deity  center  in 
the  kind  of  person  he  was,  the  kind  of  work  he  accom- 
plished, and  the  miraculous  way  in  which  his  career  on 
earth  began  and  ended. 

A  Man  of  Authority 

The  first  disciples  were  very  early  impressed  by  a 
special  authority  which  accompanied  what  he  did  and  what 
he  said.  This  was  noted  when  he  calmed  the  storm  on 
Galilee  and  they  remarked,  "Who  then  is  this,  that  even 
wind  and  sea  obey  him?"  (Mark  4:41).  It  was  noted  in 
the  healings  he  wrought,  especially,  but  not  only,  the 
healing  of  those  possessed.  In  one  vivid  instance  the 
possessed  one  cried  out,  "I  know  who  you  are,  the  Holy 
One  of  God."  All  those  who  were  present  were  amazed 
#and  queried,  "What  is  this?  A  new  teaching!  With 
authority  he  commands  even  the  unclean  spirits,  and  they 
obey  him"  (Mark  1:27).  The  performance  of  such 
miracles  need  not  have  raised  him  above  other  prophets 
or  wonder-workers.  Moreover,  he  was  not  performing 
these  works  as  signs  to  demonstrate  his  authority.  But 
there  appears  to  have  been  an  assurance  in  his  work  which 
gave  people  a  sense  of  his  authority. 

This  same  quality  marked  his  teachings.  We  shall 
consider  these  more  fully  later  but  it  is  in  place  here  to 
note  how  they  conveyed  the  sense  of  a  superior  quality  in 
his  person.  At  the  end  of  the  Sermon  on  the  Mount  "the 
crowds  were  astonished  at  his  teaching,  for  he  taught  them 
as  one  who  had  authority,  and  not  as  their  scribes" 
(Matthew  7:28,  29).  In  the  course  of  that  sermon  he  had 
repeatedly  set  his  own  authority  up  as  superior  to  that 
of  Moses  and  of  them  of  old.  His  claim  was  calmly 
assumed  in  the  words,  "but  I  say  unto  you." 


Christ,  the  Son  of  the  Living  God  53 

A  Man  of  Flawless  Character 

Closely  related  to  this  authority  is  the  integrity  and 
flawlessness  of  his  character. 

In  the  beginning  of  his  public  ministry  John  the 
Baptist  said  to  him,  "I  need  to  be  baptized  by  you,  and 
do  you  come  to  me?"  (Matthew  3:14).  Simon  Peter's 
experience  in  the  great  draught  of  fish  took  a  strange  turn. 
"He  fell  down  at  Jesus'  knees,  saying,  'Depart  from  me, 
for  I  am  a  sinful  man,  O  Lord'  "  (Luke  5:8). 

As  Jesus  spoke  of  his  relation  to  the  Father  there  is 
no  note  of  sin  or  of  repentance.  His  mood  is  one  which 
would  be  brazen  arrogance  were  it  not  due  to  genuine 
purity  of  life  and  devotion.  "I  do  nothing  on  my  own 
authority  but  speak  thus  as  the  Father  taught  me.  And 
he  who  sent  me  is  with  me;  he  has  not  left  me  alone,  for 
I  always  do  what  is  pleasing  to  him"  (John  8:28,  29). 
"I  and  the  Father  are  one"  (John  10:30).  All  others  of 
the  world's  saints  show  a  keener  sense  of  sin  as  they  come 
closer  to  the  purity  of  God.  Jesus,  however,  shows  no  such 
feeling.  Accordingly  the  New  Testament  speaks  of  his 
sinlessness.  "For  our  sake  he  made  him  to  be  sin  who 
knew  no  sin,  so  that  in  him  we  might  become  the  righteous- 
ness of  God"  (2  Corinthians  5:21).  The  full  range  and 
nature  of  Christ's  moral  excellence  are  indicated  by  the 
writer  to  the  Hebrews,  who  speaks  of  him  as  "one  who 
in  every  respect  has  been  tempted  as  we  are,  yet  without 
sinning"    (4:15b). 

One  Who  Did  What  God  Does 

Jesus  Christ  also  exercised  the  functions  of  deity.  An 
early  conflict  arose  with  his  enemies  because  he  presumed 
to  forgive  sins.  To  the  paralytic  carried  by  four  men 
Jesus  said,  "My  son,  your  sins  are  forgiven"  (Mark  2:5). 
The  Pharisees  were  logical  in  their  question,  "Who  can 


54  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

forgive  sins  but  God  only?"  If  Jesus  Christ  was  not  divine, 
then  indeed  he  was  blasphemous  as  they  concluded.  To 
the  sinful  woman  who  anointed  his  feet  in  Simon's  house 
he  likewise  said,  'Tour  sins  are  forgiven."  This  raised 
among  the  guests  the  same  logical  query,  "Who  is  this, 
who  even  forgives  sins?"   (Luke  7:48,  49). 

Not  only  did  he  forgive  sins  but  he  also  accepted 
worship.  Perhaps  the  worship  of  people  he  healed  was 
extreme  courtesy  and  respect  (Mark  1:40;  5:22;  7:25). 
Some  versions  use  the  word  knelt  instead  of  worshiped. 
But  the  worship  of  the  disciples  as  they  had  come  to  know 
their  Lord  was  of  a  genuine  type  freely  and  knowingly 
given.  After  Peter's  futile  attempt  to  walk  on  the  water, 
he  was  caught  by  the  hand  and  the  storm  was  stilled.  "And 
those  in  the  boat  worshiped  him,  saying,  'Truly  you  are 
the  Son  of  God'  "  (Matthew  14:33). 

After  his  resurrection  this  sense  of  awe  in  his  presence 
was  greatly  heightened  and  on  occasion  they  worshiped 
him  accordingly  (Matthew  28:9).  Jesus  Christ  had  come 
to  do  for  them  what  he  has  been  doing  for  his  followers 
ever  since— taking  the  place  of  God  for  them.  "No  doubt 
they  thought  of  him  as  under  God,"  writes  Bishop  Gore. 
"But  within  the  sphere  of  their  personal  lives,  he  had 
been  growing  to  have  to  them  the  values  of  God,  as  the 
object  of  their  absolute  faith,  their  infallible  refuge  and 
informer  and  protector  and  guide."3 

The  Aura  of  His  Personality 

The  ascription  of  deity  to  Jesus  Christ  cannot  be 
based  alone  on  any  one  aspect  of  what  he  was  or  did.  It  is 
rather  the  inference  from  the  total  aura  of  his  personality. 
What  he  was  in  himself,  as  is  true  of  all  personal  relations, 
was  transmitted  to  his  followers  by  the  total  impact  of  his 

»€harles  Gore,  Belief  in  Christ   (New  York:    Scribners,  1923),  page  53. 


Christ,  the  Son  of  the  Living  God  55 

personality.    W.  Norman  Pittenger  sums  it  up  this  way: 

It  is  not  that  they  have  found  only  the  attraction  of  one  who 
is  holy;  nor  only  that  they  have  been  moved  by  a  profound  devotion 
to  the  ideal;  nor  only  that  they  have  been  brought  to  their  knees 
by  purity  of  living;  nor  only  that  they  have  been  impressed  by 
nobility  of  teaching;  nor  even  that  they  have  been  moved  by 
profound  and  filial  love  to  God.  All  of  these  things,  in  their  degree, 
have  been  true.  ...  It  is  Jesus,  in  the  totality  of  his  impact  upon 
men,  an  impact  apprehended  in  its  deepest  reality  by  the  faith 
which  has  been  awakened  and  the  glad  surrender  that  has  been 
evoked,  as  being  himself  God's  act  for  men,  in  men,  to  men,  and 
as  man.4 

His  own  moving  among  his  disciples  was  done  with 
an  assurance  of  being  someone  of  exalted  importance.  He 
assumed  a  role  in  their  midst  which  can  be  regarded  as 
genuine  only  on  the  basis  of  his  divinity.  To  be  sure,  he 
acted  always  in  meekness  and  humility.  He  was  among 
them  as  one  who  came  to  minister  and  not  to  be  ministered 
unto.  He  disclaimed  being  the  type  of  Messiah  who 
exercised  worldly  power.  He  spoke  of  himself  chiefly  as 
the  Son  of  man.  This  disarming  humility,  however,  did 
not  detract  from  the  immense  personal  authority  he 
exercised  in  the  total  impact  of  his  personality  upon  his 
followers.  His  use  of  the  title  of  Son  of  man  applied  not 
only  to  the  humble  and  self-effacing  work  he  wrought  on 
earth.  He  used  it  also  to  apply  to  himself  as  a  glorified 
judge  and  king  in  the  future.  He  taught  as  if  his  statements 
were  certainly  true.  His  claims  on  his  disciples  were 
exclusive,  as  from  one  who  is  the  sole  representative  of 
God.  He  accepted  the  designations  of  Son  of  God, 
Messiah,  and  King.  His  own  conception  of  himself  was 
no  less  than  the  aura  of  his  personality  as  he  lived  among 
his  followers. 


*W.    Norman   Pittenger,    Christ   and    Christian   Faith    (New   York:     Round 
Table  Press,  1941),  pages  44,  45. 


56  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

As  we  read  the  New  Testament  to  see  why  Jesus  of 
Nazareth  was  accorded  divine  status  we  shall  have  to  look 
at  the  two  miracles  which  attended  the  beginning  and 
the  end  of  his  earthly  life,  viz.,  the  virgin  birth  and  his 
resurrection  from  the  dead.  We  look  at  them  here  to  see 
their  relation  to  his  person. 

The  Virgin  Birth 

There  is  a  type  of  argument  for  Christ's  deity  which 
follows  this  logic:  The  Scripture  records,  being  inspired 
by  the  Holy  Spirit,  are  infallibly  correct  in  every  point. 
The  Scriptures  report  that  Jesus  was  conceived  of  the 
Holy  Spirit  by  the  Virgin  Mary.  Therefore,  the  argument 
concludes,  Jesus  Christ  was  divine  and  all  he  said  or  did 
was  by  divine  authority.  As  we  have  considered  above 
the  manner  in  which  belief  in  his  deity  unfolded  upon  his 
followers,  the  primary  evidence  appears  to  have  been  from 
his  person  and  work.  The  birth  stories  are  related  to  this 
conviction  as  corroboration.  Jesus  does  not  appear  to  have 
authenticated  his  ministry  by  showing  a  divine  birth 
certificate.  In  the  nature  of  the  case  such  a  miracle  is 
extremely  private  and  Mary  could  only  ponder  the  matter 
in  her  heart   (Luke  2:19). 

There  is  another  type  of  argument  which  runs  in  a 
different  direction.  It  is  argued  that  the  birth  stories  were 
legendary  and  were  added  to  the  Gospel  story  without 
authentic  foundation.  This  is  argued  on  the  basis  of  the 
silence  of  Mark,  John,  and  Paul,  all  of  whom  believe  in 
Christ's  deity.  They  do  not  seem  to  regard  the  virgin 
birth  as  a  necessary  foundation  for  belief  in  his  deity. 

This  latter  discounting  of  the  birth  stories  in  Matthew 
and  in  Luke,  on  the  basis  of  silence,  appears  to  grow, 
rather,  out  of  prejudice  against  the  possibility  of  miracle. 
Mark  speaks  straight  away  of  "the  gospel  of  Jesus  Christ, 


Christ,  the  Son  of  the  Living  God  57 

the  Son  of  God"  (Mark  1:1).  John  states  the  explicit 
incarnation  belief,  "And  the  Word  became  flesh"  (John 
1:14).  Paul  gives  a  similar  equivalent,  "God  sent  forth  his 
Son,  born  of  woman"  (Galatians  4:4).  Moreover,  it  is 
worth  noting  that  Luke's  Gospel  was  written  by  a  physician 
whose  writings  were  based  on  investigations  of  extreme 
care  (Luke  1:1-4).  It  is  beside  the  point  therefore  to  argue 
against  the  virgin  birth  on  the  basis  of  the  silence  of  Mark, 
John,  and  Paul. 

It  is  likewise  beside  the  point  to  try  to  prove  or 
disprove  it  on  the  basis  of  the  natural  sciences.  If  there 
is  no  other  authenticated  parallel  to  be  found  in  nature, 
that  does  not  disprove  this  instance.  In  the  nature  of  the 
case  Jesus  Christ  is  regarded  as  himself  without  parallel. 
If  there  were  other  parallel  cases,  they  might  make  it 
easier  for  skeptical  minds  to  accept  this  one  as  a  fact.  But 
that  might,  at  the  same  time,  make  it  more  difficult  for 
them  to  discern  and  acknowledge  the  uniqueness  of  Jesus 
in  the  spiritual  and  moral  realm.  Indeed,  there  are  people, 
like  the  Moslems,  who  accept  the  miracle  of  the  virgin 
birth  but  who  do  not  acknowledge  Jesus  Christ  as  divine. 

We  would  be  in  a  somewhat  confusing  situation  if 
the  virgin  birth  were  the  only  indication  of  the  deity  of 
Christ.  That  would  obscure  the  spiritual  and  moral 
significance  of  his  deity,  which,  as  we  have  seen  above,  is 
attested  along  other  lines.  Once  we  see  the  matchless 
character  and  the  high  authority  of  Jesus  Christ  as  the 
Son  of  God  we  can  agree  with  Bishop  Gore's  conclusion: 
"So  far  from  finding  a  difficulty  in  the  Virgin  Birth  of 
Jesus  we  will  welcome  it  as  in  the  highest  degree 
acceptable  and  congruous  in  his  case,  if  not  rationally 
necessary."6 


6  Op.  cit.,  page  279. 


58  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

The  Resurrection 

In  the  case  of  the  miracle  of  the  resurrection  we  are 
dealing  with  a  far  more  open  and  public  matter.  In  the 
New  Testament  it  is  likewise  a  more  central  and  evidential 
matter  for  Christ's  followers.  This  thread  is  woven  into 
the  whole  fabric  of  their  belief  and  their  witness.  It  is 
well  attested  in  the  very  earliest  writings  and  they  are 
based  on  the  direct  report  of  eyewitnesses. 

Paul  learned  from  the  other  apostles  "that  Christ 
died  for  our  sins  in  accordance  with  the  scriptures,  that 
he  was  buried,  that  he  was  raised  on  the  third  day  in 
accordance  with  the  scriptures,  and  that  he  appeared  to 
Cephas,  then  to  the  twelve.  Then  he  appeared  to  more 
than  five  hundred  brethren  at  one  time,  most  of  whom 
are  still  alive,  though  some  have  fallen  asleep.  Then  he 
appeared  to  James,  then  to  all  the  apostles"  (1  Corinthians 
15:3-7).  This  testimony  was  corroborated  in  his  own 
experience.  "Last  of  all,  as  to  one  untimely  born,  he 
appeared  also  to  me"    (verse  8). 

The  Gospels  give  vivid  eyewitness  accounts  of  the 
resurrection,  including  the  story  of  the  empty  tomb,  seeing 
his  visible  body,  and  hearing  his  audible  words.  Rather 
than  being  an  illusion  growing  out  of  their  fevered  hopes 
it  was  an  amazing  surprise  which  had  to  overcome  their 
own  disbelief.  Thomas  would  not  believe  that  the  others 
had  seen  the  Lord.  "Unless  I  see  in  his  hands  the  print  of 
the  nails,  and  place  my  finger  in  the  mark  of  the  nails,  and 
place  my  hand  in  his  side,  I  will  not  believe"  (John  20:25). 
A  week  later  he  had  the  opportunity  to  do  just  that 
although  Jesus  gave  him  the  gentle  rebuke,  "Do  not  be 
faithless,  but  believing"  (verse  27).  He,  the  greatest 
doubter  among  them,  cried  out,  "My  Lord  and  my  God!" 
(verse  28). 

These  accounts  are  regarded  by  even  critical  historians 


Christ,  the  Son  of  the  Living  God  59 

as  obviously  reports  from  eyewitnesses.  Dr.  A.  T. 
Olmstead,  the  noted  historian  of  ancient  Near  Eastern 
countries,  makes  this  summary  comment,  "If  modern 
scholars  do  not  accept  the  vision  as  objective  reality,  the 
blame  should  be  laid  on  the  psychologist  and  not  on  the 
historian/'8  He  goes  on  to  observe  the  place  the  resur- 
rection had  in  the  disciples'  experience. 

Such  appearances  are  absolutely  demanded  to  explain  the 
sudden  shift  in  the  feeling  of  the  disciples,  one  day  mourning  and 
weeping,  in  fear,  disillusioned,  the  next  going  forth  joyfully  to 
danger  and  death,  and  always  preaching  as  the  one  absolute  dogma 
of  the  new  faith  the  belief  in  the  resurrection.7 

There  is  an  air  of  mystery  about  certain  aspects  of 
the  risen  Christ.  Closed  doors  were  no  barrier  to  his 
travel.  Even  those  who  knew  him  best  could  not  always 
recognize  him  at  first.  He  could  eat  on  occasion  but  did 
not  appear  to  require  food  constantly.  Having  no  other 
parallels  to  use  in  describing  their  experiences  with  him, 
they  found  even  their  best  language  carrying  an  air  ot 
inadequacy.  Beyond  all  their  powers  to  report,  these 
encounters  with  the  risen  Lord  were  real  to  them  without 
any  doubt. 

It  appears  convincing  then  that  the  climaxing 
confirmation  of  their  belief  in  his  deity  was  in  the  miracle 
of  his  resurrection.  What  was  true  for  them  has  been 
transmitted  through  their  writings  and  through  the 
perpetual  witness  of  the  Holy  Spirit  to  the  church  fellow- 
ship down  through  the  centuries.  The  fixing  of  Sunday 
as  the  Lord's  Day  and  the  annual  celebration  of  Easter 
are  recurrent  witnesses  to  the  central  and  certain  place 
this  event  has  for  Christian  believers. 


•  A.  T.  Olmstead,  Jesus  in  the  Light  of  History  (New  York:    Scribners,  1942), 
page  249. 

T  Ibid.,  page  252. 


60  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

Views  of  Christ's  Dual  Nature 

We  have  had  a  look  at  the  two  convictions  Christian 
believers  have  had  about  the  person  of  Jesus  Christ.  They 
are  convinced  of  his  true  humanity.  They  are  also  con- 
vinced of  his  deity. 

The  Biblical  Terminology 

Accordingly  the  New  Testament  speaks  of  him  as 
Jesus  of  Nazareth,  the  carpenter's  son,  friend  of  sinners, 
prophet,  teacher,  and  son  of  David.  It  speaks  of  him  also 
as  the  Son  of  man,  the  Messiah,  the  Son  of  God,  the  Lamb 
of  God,  the  King  of  the  Jews,  the  Savior  of  the  world.  It 
uses  concepts  of  a  philosophical  type  such  as  the  effulgence 
of  God's  glory,  the  express  image  of  his  substance,  and 
the  Logos.  The  word  Logos  had  a  wide  usage  among 
Stoics  as  the  principle  of  divine  reason  which  gave  the 
world  meaning.  It  was  approximated  among  Jews  by  the 
word  Wisdom.  In  John's  Gospel  this  Logos  or  Word  is 
regarded  as  divine,  just  as  among  the  Stoics.  But  John  also 
affirmed  that  this  divine  Word  became  flesh. 

Perhaps  the  most  characteristic  title  ascribed  to  Jesus 
Christ  in  the  New  Testament  was  Lord.  He  was  Lord 
of  Glory  and  Lord  of  Life.  This  was  a  most  exalted  term 
both  among  Jews  and  among  pagans.  Among  the  Jews 
it  had  come  to  be  used  for  the  living  God  himself,  for  they 
came  to  regard  his  personal  name,  Jehovah,  as  too  sacred  to 
be  spoken.  For  Gentiles,  the  word  Lord  had  taken  on  an 
exalted  and  divine  meaning,  especially  in  the  mystery  cults. 
Consequently  the  use  of  Lord  as  a  title  for  Jesus  Christ 
was  for  the  New  Testament  church  the  equivalent  of 
calling  him  God. 

A   Classic  Statement 

The  later  history  of  thought  about  Christ's  person  is 
a   record   of   much   confusion   and   of   much   distressing 


Christ,  the  Son  of  the  Living  God 

political  conflict.  Behind  these  earlier  Christological  con- 
troversies, however,  was  a  serious  concern  to  think  of 
Jesus  Christ  in  such  terms  as  would  preserve  the  two 
convictions  about  his  real  humanity  and  his  real  deity. 
The  classic  statement  of  this  belief  was  worked  out  at 
Chalcedon  in  451.  The  statement  affirmed  that  Jesus 
Christ  was  "perfect  in  Godhead  .  .  .  perfect  in  manhood; 
truly  God  and  truly  man  .  .  .  consubstantial  with  the 
Father  according  to  the  Godhead,  and  consubstantial  with 
us  according  to  the  manhood;  in  all  things  like  unto  us, 
without  sin."8 

All  of  this  was  to  make  the  above  twin  convictions 
explicit.  In  attempting  to  affirm  the  unity  of  Christ's 
person  they  affirmed  that  he  was  "acknowledged  in  two 
natures  .  .  .  concurring  in  one  Person/'  While  we  may 
not  think  in  such  terms  today  and  while  the  New  Testa- 
ment itself  does  not  appear  to  regard  neat  metaphysical 
formulas  as  necessary  for  Christian  salvation,  it  is  hardly 
necessary  to  dismiss  such  attempts  at  formulating  belief  as 
insignificant.  Perhaps  we  can  agree  with  John  Whale's 
comment: 

By  confessing  One  Person  in  Two  Natures,  the  official 
Christology  of  Christendom  raises  many  unsolved  problems  and 
lays  itself  open  to  damaging  criticism  through  the  use  of  such 
categories;  but  it  has  one  great  abiding  merit:  it  leaves  the  paradox 
of  Christ's  Person  as  such,  and  in  so  doing  it  safeguards  the  truth 
as  it  is  in  Jesus,  given  to  us  forever  in  the  pages  of  the  New 
Testament  and  in  the  ongoing  life  of  the  Church.8 

Attempts  will  constantly  be  made  to  clarify  and  enrich 
for  our  minds  the  meaning  of  the  incarnation.  These 
attempts  will  be  based  on  the  primary  data  of  the  New 


8  Philip   Schaff,    The    Creeds   of    Christendom    (New   York:     Harper,    1877), 
Volume  II,  page  62. 

9  John  S.  Whale,  Christian  Doctrine  (New  York:    Cambridge  University  Press, 
1941),  page   122. 


62  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

Testament.  They  will  need  to  use  categories  of  thought 
that  are  current  at  the  time  of  each  formulation.  They 
should  always  seek  to  interpret  the  experience  the  Chris- 
tian believer  has  of  the  living  Lord  Jesus  Christ.  There 
will,  of  necessity,  always  be  a  wide  border  of  mystery 
around  these  formulations.  The  nature  of  one's  own 
personality  is  itself  mysterious  indeed.  One  has  two 
parents,  four  grandparents,  eight  great-grandparents,  and 
so  on  to  a  countless  number  of  ancestors,  all  of  whom 
participate  "substantially"  in  one's  own  personality. 

If  this  is  baffling  to  thought,  how  much  more  must  it 
remain  a  mystery  how  "the  Word  became  flesh."  But 
the  issue  is  a  distinct  person,  "the  man  Christ  Jesus,"  in 
whom  "the  whole  fullness  of  deity  dwells  bodily"  (Colos- 
sians  2:9).  What  mattered  in  the  New  Testament  was  that 
"from  his  fullness  have  we  all  received,  grace  upon 
grace  .  .  .  the  only  Son,  who  is  in  the  bosom  of  the  Father, 
he  has  made  him  known"  (John  1:16,  18).  What  mattered 
was  that  his  ethical  teachings  were  given  with  authority 
as  the  norms  of  God's  kingdom  (Matthew  5:20). 
What  mattered  was  that  the  pathway  to  God  was  opened 
by  God's  own  act  of  reconciliation  (2  Corinthians  5:19). 
What  mattered  was  that  the  world-wide  mission  of  the 
gospel  was  God's  own  assignment  for  men  (Matthew 
28:19,  20).  What  mattered  was  "that  he  who  raised  the 
Lord  Jesus  will  raise  us  also"  (2  Corinthians  4:14).  What 
mattered  was  that  the  community  of  believers  in  Christ 
became  the  household  of  God   (Ephesians  2:19). 

These  are  the  things  which  matter  today. 


CHAPTER  FOUR 


He  Went  About  Doing  Good 

NOW  THAT  WE  HAVE  CONSIDERED  WHO  JESUS  CHRIST  WAS  AND 

is,  we  shall  consider  more  explicitly  what  he  did  and  does. 
There  may  seem  to  be  an  arbitrary  logic  in  this  order,  for 
men  saw  what  he  did  before  they  knew  who  he  was.  In 
the  midst  of  his  public  ministry  they  kept  asking,  "Who  is 
this?"  (Luke  5:21;  7:49;  9:9).  He  also  raised  the  question 
with  his  disciples  at  a  critical  period  in  their  training. 
"Who  do  men  say  that  I  am?"  (Mark  8:27).  After  Peter's 
confession  that  he  was  "the  Christ  of  God,"  however, 
everything  he  did  took  on  new  significance. 

Since  that  time  all  Christian  believers  look  at  what  he 
did  through  the  eyes  of  faith.  They  see  what  he  did  and 
does  in  terms  of  the  kind  of  person  they  acknowledge  him 
to  be.  Exalting  his  person  does  not  minimize  the 
importance  of  his  work.  He  came  not  merely  to  be 
something  but  also  to  do  something.  At  the  age  of  twelve 
he  felt  that  he  must  be  in  his  Father's  house  and  about  his 
business  (Luke  2:49).  His  public  ministry  was  announced 
as  similar  to  what  God  is  doing.  "My  Father  is  working 
still,  and  I  am  working"  (John  5:17).  There  was  also 
an  urgency  about  what  he  did.  "We  must  work  the  works 
of  him  who  sent  me,  while  it  is  day;  night  comes,  when 
no  one  can  work"  (John  9:4).  Let  us  look  at  the  things 
he  did. 

He  Achieved  an  Exemplary  Character 
This  might  seem  closer  to  what  he  was  than  to  what 
he  did.  As  we  looked  in  a  former  chapter  at  the  qualities 


64  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

of  his  character  we  noted,  however,  that  his  mature 
character  was  the  result  of  struggle  and  development.  Only 
so  could  he  be  regarded  as  truly  man.  When  he  was  left 
behind  in  Jerusalem  at  the  age  of  twelve  his  youthful 
eagerness  was  brought  under  parental  control.  He  'was 
obedient  to  them"  and  returned  to  Nazareth.  In  this 
situation  ' 'Jesus  increased  in  wisdom  and  in  stature,  and 
in  favor  with  God  and  man"  (Luke  2:48-52).  His 
temptation  in  the  wilderness  was  an  experience  of  serious 
duration.  Apparently  God's  will  for  the  Messiah  had  to 
be  discovered  by  discerning  interpretation  of  Scripture 
and  by  difficult  and  courageous  choices.  His  prayer  life 
had  a  glad  and  joyous  quality  about  it  which  bubbled  up 
easily  into  thankfulness  and  praise.  But  it  also  had  an 
earnestness  and  duration  about  it  which  indicated  struggle 
and  exercise.  Before  he  called  his  twelve  disciples  he 
continued  all  night  in  prayer  to  God  (Luke  6:12).  He 
urged  to  his  disciples  that  men  should  always  pray  and  not 
lose  heart  (Luke  18:1).  Nothing  is  clearer  from  his 
Gethsemane  agony  than  that  the  character  that  he  had 
was  an  achievement. 

He  achieved  this  character  in  typical  human  circum- 
stances. He  was  born  of  a  woman,  and  born  under  the 
Law.  He  grew  up  in  a  home  and  learned  obedience 
through  what  he  suffered.  He  carried  responsibilities  in 
the  home  until  he  was  thirty  years  old.  He  went  up  to 
the  Jerusalem  temple  celebrations,  as  his  parents  did, 
according  to  custom  (Luke  2:41,  42).  He  attended  the 
Nazareth  synagogue,  also  "as  his  custom  was"  (Luke  4:16). 
While  his  formal  education  was  limited,  he  was  eager  to 
learn  from  the  Scriptures  (Luke  2:46,  47).  He  had 
pondered  them  deeply  and  had  studied  them  with  a 
discerning  mind. 

It  is  an  unmerited  favor  indeed  which  God  has  given 


He  Went  About  Doing  Good  65 

to  men  in  so  good  a  man  as  Christ  Jesus.  This  grace  of  God 
in  Christ  enabled  him  to  achieve  so  exemplary  a  character. 
The  acknowledgement  of  his  own  sinlessness  and  the 
confession  of  him  as  our  divine  Lord  and  Savior  does  not 
rule  him  out  as  our  example.  The  main  goal  of  Christian 
growth  in  the  church  is  to  attain  "to  mature  manhood,  to 
the  measure  of  the  stature  of  the  fullness  of  Christ' ' 
(Ephesians  4:13). 

He  Engaged  in  Works  of  Mercy 

We  have  already  considered  his  compassion  from 
which  his  works  of  mercy  flowed.  We  have  also  noted 
that  he  regarded  this  as  a  work  of  God.  This  gives  us  a 
clue  to  one  meaning  of  the  kingdom  of  God. 

A  Clue  to  the  Kingdom 

The  kingdom  or  rule  of  God  was  at  hand  in  his  works 
of  mercy.  "But  if  it  is  by  the  finger  of  God  that  I  cast 
out  demons,  then  the  kingdom  of  God  has  come  upon 
you"  (Luke  11:20).  He  made  the  same  identification  in 
sending  out  the  Seventy.  "Whenever  you  enter  a  town 
and  they  receive  you  .  .  .  heal  the  sick  in  it  and  say  to 
them,  'The  kingdom  of  God  has  come  near  to  you'  " 
(Luke  10:8,  9).  His  works  of  mercy  included  the  feeding 
of  the  hungry,  as  in  the  familiar  instance  of  feeding  five 
thousand. 

But  the  major  form  of  helpfulness  was  in  the  art  of 
healing.  All  of  the  Gospels  are  studded  with  instances  of 
his  healing  work.  He  healed  all  manner  of  illnesses.  He 
healed,  at  times,  during  the  day  and  on  into  the  evening. 
He  healed  people  he  met  "on  the  way"  and  he  also  gave 
special  periods  to  healing  all  who  came  crowding  to  him. 
He  healed  many  of  specific  physical  disabilities  ranging 


66  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

from  "flow  of  blood"  to  blindness,  and  from  fever  to 
leprosy. 

If  he  could  be  said  to  have  had  a  specialty  it  was  in 
the  realm  of  diseases  involving  the  spirit  as  much  as  the 
body  of  the  patient.  Our  present  generation  is  keenly 
aware  of  the  complications  between  mind  and  body  which 
mark  human  illnesses.  Jesus  of  Nazareth  anticipated  this 
understanding  by  nearly  twenty  centuries.  The  nature  of 
mental  illness,  involving  as  it  does  attitudes  of  hatred  and 
jealousy  as  well  as  feelings  of  inferiority  and  guilt,  gives 
special  relevance  to  the  conception  current  in  Jesus'  time 
that  exorcism  of  unclean  spirits  is  necessary  to  attain 
wholeness.  Jesus  healed  men  rather  than  diseases.  He  gave 
generous  energy  and  unfailing  compassion  to  all  whom  he 
met.  "He  took  our  infirmities  and  bore  our  diseases" 
(Matthew  8:17). 

His  works  of  mercy  thus  were  regarded  by  Jesus  as  a 
work  of  God.  He  regarded  them  as  the  coming  of  his 
kingdom  and  the  extension  of  his  rule.  The  problem  of 
human  suffering  is  a  baffling  philosophical  problem  to 
which  much  careful  thought  has  been  given.  Jesus  cut 
through  the  tangles  of  this  as  an  intellectual  problem  and 
gave  a  direct  and  practical  answer  to  it.  When  questioned 
about  why  the  young  man  in  Jerusalem  was  born  blind  he 
replied,  "It  was  not  that  this  man  sinned,  or  his  parents, 
but  that  the  works  of  God  might  be  made  manifest  in  him" 
(John  9:3).  All  the  works  of  mercy,  which  Jesus  performed 
out  of  compassion  for  men  in  need,  were  also  expressions 
of  God's  own  love  for  them. 

They  need  to  be  looked  at  in  the  perspective  of 
Christ's  total  work.  From  one  angle  it  is  clear  that  he 
healed  and  fed  men  out  of  sheer  uncalculating  compassion. 
His  was  a  direct  response  to  man's  immediate  and  obvious 
need.    No  other  warrant  was  necessary.    He  played  no 


He  Went  About  Doing  Good  67 

favorites,  but  responded  to  suffering  regardless  of  race 

or  creed. 

But  from  another  angle  his  works  of  mercy  were 
correlated  with  his  messianic  mission.  He  was  concerned 
lest  the  reputation  he  received  as  a  healer  and  feeder  of 
multitudes  would  distort  in  the  public  mind  the  nature 
of  his  messiahship.  He  charged  the  cleansed  leper  to  tell 
no  one.  When  he  did  so  all  the  more  and  great  multitudes 
gathered  to  be  healed,  Jesus  withdrew  to  the  wilderness 
and  prayed  (Luke  5:14-16).  After  he  had  fed  the  five 
thousand  he  faced  a  similar  issue.  "Perceiving  then  that 
they  were  about  to  come  and  take  him  by  force  to  make 
him  king,  Jesus  withdrew  again  to  the  hills  by  himself ' 
(John  6:15).  No  wonder  he  said,  "This  generation  is  an 
evil  generation;  it  seeks  a  sign,  but  no  sign  shall  be  given 
to  it  except  the  sign  of  Jonah"  (Luke  11:29).  Can  this  be 
one  meaning  of  his  first  temptation  in  the  wilderness — to 
turn  stones  into  bread,  whether  for  his  personal  use  or  in 
his  messianic  ministry?  The  answer  is  the  same  in  both 
cases.  "Man  shall  not  live  by  bread  alone"  (Luke  4:4). 
"Do  not  labor  for  the  food  which  perishes,  but  for  the  food 
which  endures  to  eternal  life  .  .  ."    (John  6:27). 

An  Obligation  on  His  Followers 

The  trenchant  parables  of  the  good  Samaritan  (Luke 
10:29-37)  and  of  the  last  judgment  (Matthew  25:31-46) 
have  burned  this  obligation  permanently  into  the 
Christian  conscience.  This  ministry  of  mercy  was  part  of 
his  future  plan  for  his  followers.  "He  who  believes  in 
me  will  also  do  the  works  that  I  do;  and  greater  works 
than  these  will  he  do,  because  I  go  to  the  Father"  (John 
14:12).  Such  has  been  the  warrant  and  commission  for 
all  the  works  of  charity  which  Christians  have  done  in 
Christ's  name.    This  amazing  amount  of  eleemosynary 


68  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

activity,  or  charitable  effort,  by  Christians  is  indeed  the 
outflowing  of  the  grace  of  Christ. 

He  Taught  Men  the  Truth 

We  have  already  noted  the  many  titles  which  have 
been  ascribed  to  Jesus,  indicating  the  varied  roles  he 
exercised.  All  that  he  did  must  be  thought  of  together  as 
we  consider  his  full  ministry. 

Jesus  was  far  more  than  a  teacher.  But  he  was  a 
teacher  and  he  did  teach.  He  was  born  a  Jew  and  the 
Jewish  faith  was  a  teaching  faith.  For  Jews  the  words  of 
God  were  transmitted  by  teaching.  "And  you  shall  teach 
them  to  your  children,  talking  of  them  when  you  are 
sitting  in  your  house,  and  when  you  are  walking  by  the 
way,  and  when  you  lie  down,  and  when  you  rise" 
(Deuteronomy  11:19).  He  grew  up  in  Nazareth  as  a  child 
of  the  synagogue  where  teaching  rather  than  ritual  was 
the  major  religious  exercise.  The  Scriptures  on  which  he 
was  nurtured  were  themselves  an  instrument  of  instruction. 

Accordingly,  in  Jesus'  short  public  ministry  much 
time  and  much  energy  were  given  to  the  work  of  teaching 
men  the  truth.  In  the  beginning  "he  went  about  all 
Galilee,  teaching  in  their  synagogues"  (Matthew  4:23; 
Mark  1:39).  At  the  end  "he  was  teaching  daily  in  the 
temple"  (Luke  19:47).  The  tax  collectors  regarded  him 
in  this  role  and  said,  "Teacher,  what  shall  we  do?"  (Luke 
3:12).  The  scribes  and  Pharisees  addressed  him  likewise: 
"Teacher,  we  wish  to  see  a  sign  from  you"  (Matthew 
12:38).  While  some  regarded  him  with  suspicion,  others 
acknowledged  him  with  high  respect.  "Rabbi,  we  know 
that  you  are  a  teacher  come  from  God"  (John  3:2). 

His  major  work  as  teacher  centered  in  the  followers 
whom  he  gathered  about  him.  They  were  called  disciples 
and  traveled  about  with  him  in  the  manner  of  schools  of 


He  Went  About  Doing  Good  69 

prophets  or  peripatetic  philosophers.  Twelve  of  these  were 
especially  chosen  "to  be  with  him"  (Mark  3:14).  On 
occasion  his  disciples  numbered  as  many  as  seventy  (Luke 
10:1,  17). 

In  addition  to  these,  who  were  closer  to  him,  there 
were  "the  multitudes''  who  gathered  about  him  in  the 
villages,  by  the  seaside,  and  elsewhere.  Even  in  the  privacy 
of  his  retreat  five  thousand  followed  him.  "And  he  had 
compassion  on  them,  because  they  were  like  sheep  without 
a  shepherd;  and  he  began  to  teach  them  many  things" 
(Mark  6:34). 

Words  and  Deeds  Are  Both  Important 

As  a  teacher  he  used  words  and  he  used  them  well.  In 
one  sense  he  minimized  words.  Men  who  pray  to  God  are 
not  heard  for  their  many  words.  "Do  not  heap  up  empty 
phrases  as  the  Gentiles  do"  (Matthew  6:7).  Discipleship 
is  not  measured  by  saying,  "Lord,  Lord,"  but  by  doing 
the  will  of  the  Father  in  heaven  (Matthew  7:21;  Luke 
6:46).  The  teaching  of  Jesus  was  done  in  the  continuing 
and  intimate  fellowship  of  his  band  of  disciples.  It  thus 
included  much  more  than  formal  speaking.  Eating  and 
traveling,  praying  and  healing,  fishing  and  visiting  all  had 
a  place  in  their  curriculum.  The  use  of  natural  occasions, 
of  group  participation,  and  of  dynamic  interplay  was  a 
part  of  his  creative  teaching  method. 

What  Jesus  himself  did  and  was  gave  point  and  power 
to  all  he  said.  No  one  ever  used  words  more  frugally  than 
he  did.  "His  sayings  are  actions  and  not  adjustments  of 
concepts.  He  speaks  in  the  lowest  abstractions  that 
language  is  capable  of,  if  it  is  to  be  language  at  all  and 
not   the   fact   itself."1    The   Christian   revelation   is   not 


1  A.  N.  Whitehead,  Religion  in  the  Making   (New  York:    Macmillan,  1926), 
page  57.   Reprinted  by  permission  of  the  publishers. 


70  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

primarily  a  set  of  wise  sayings.  God  revealed  himself 
through  the  Word  made  flesh.  It  was  ''truth  through 
personality."  The  truth  Jesus  revealed  was  so  much  of  a 
personal  quality  that  he  declared  to  his  disciples,  "I  am 
the  way,  and  the  truth,  and  the  life"  (John  14:6). 
Nevertheless,  Jesus  used  words  and  he  used  them  well.  He 
carried  on  conversation  and  he  made  public  addresses. 
His  going  about  doing  good  included  communication  by 
talk  and  sayings.  What  he  did  required  interpretation. 
The  person  that  he  was  revealed  itself  by  his  teachings. 

He  Taught  With  Grace  and  Authority 

What  was  the  manner  of  his  teaching?  For  one  thing, 
he  taught  with  charm  and  grace.  His  visit  to  Nazareth  after 
his  temptation  ended  on  the  verge  of  violence.  But  the 
people  had  been  stirred  by  his  speech  in  the  synagogue. 
"And  all  spoke  well  of  him,  and  wondered  at  the  gracious 
words  which  proceeded  out  of  his  mouth"  (Luke  4:22). 
Multitudes  were  drawn  to  him.  "The  great  throng  heard 
him  gladly"  (Mark  12:37).  Even  the  soldiers  who  were 
sent  to  arrest  him  came  back  empty  handed  with  the 
explanation,  "No  man  ever  spoke  like  this  man"  (John 
7:46). 

We  have  no  record  of  the  tone  or  quality  of  his  voice; 
nor  can  we  tell  how  much  of  the  grace  of  his  speech  was 
expressed  in  the  music  of  his  words.  We  know  a  little  about 
his  gestures  and  more  about  the  settings  of  his  teaching. 
Presumably  one  who  talked  out  of  doors  as  he  did  and 
to  multitudes  who  hung  upon  his  words  would  develop 
skill  in  the  art  of  forceful  speaking.  Presumably  he  suited 
the  tone  and  quality  of  voice  to  the  thing  he  said,  using 
tenderness  when  taking  little  children  in  his  arms  to 
bless  them  (Mark  10:16);  severity,  when  making  prophetic 
judgments:  "Woe  to  you,  Chorazin!    Woe  to  you,  Beth- 


He  Went  About  Doing  Good  71 

saida!"  (Luke  10:13);  teasing  laughter  with  his  hyperboles: 
"Why  do  you  see  the  speck  that  is  in  your  brother's  eye, 
but  do  not  notice  the  log  that  is  in  your  own  eye?"  (Luke 
6:41);  heated  urgency,  when  cleansing  the  temple:  "Take 
these  things  away;  you  shall  not  make  my  Father's  house 
a  house  of  trade"  (John  2:16);  cheerful  comfort  in  his 
invitation,  "Come  to  me,  all  who  labor  and  are  heavy  laden, 
and  I  will  give  you  rest"  (Matthew  11:28);  and  plaintive 
sorrow  in  his  lament,  "O,  Jerusalem,  Jerusalem,  killing  the 
prophets  and  stoning  those  who  are  sent  to  you!  How 
often  would  I  have  gathered  your  children  together  as  a 
hen  gathers  her  brood  under  her  wings,  and  you  would 
not!"   (Matthew  23:37;  Luke  13:34). 

In  the  form  and  style  of  his  teachings  he  was  an  artist 
indeed.  Here  the  grace  and  charm  of  his  manner  are  clear. 
Without  the  writing  of  books  and,  for  the  most  part, 
without  formal  presentation  of  his  teachings,  they  were 
remembered  amazingly  well.  His  traveling  conversations, 
his  occasional  instruction,  and  his  table  talk  stuck  in  the 
minds  of  his  hearers  because  of  their  striking  form.  He 
used  proverbs  which  we  would  regard  as  "quotable 
quotes."  "The  sabbath  was  made  for  man,  not  man  for  the 
sabbath"  (Mark  2:27).  "Those  who  are  well  have  no  need 
of  a  physician,  but  those  who  are  sick"  (Mark  2:17).  "You 
will  know  them  by  their  fruits"  (Matthew  7:16).  He  used 
hyperbole  and  paradox  with  striking  effect.  "You  blind 
guides,  straining  out  a  gnat  and  swallowing  a  camel!" 
(Matthew  23:24).  "For  whoever  would  save  his  life  will 
lose  it;  and  whoever  loses  his  life  for  my  sake  and  the 
gospel's  will  save  it"    (Mark  8:35). 

His  distinctive  teaching  form  was  the  parable,  or 
analogy  in  story  form.  The  parables  usually  have  but 
one  point  and  it  is  gratuitous  to  strain  for  significance  in 
each  element  in  them.  The  parables  were  spoken  to  plain 


72  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

and  simple  people  and  were  obviously  intended  to  make 
moral  and  religious  truth  clear  and  persuasive.  Yet  they 
required  a  hearing  ear  and  might  miss  their  objective  of 
instruction  and  appeal.  In  such  case  they  became  them- 
selves a  judgment  upon  those  who  might  have  received 
their  truth.  Through  the  centuries  the  grace  of  Jesus' 
teachings  has  been  offered  to  men  in  his  matchless  parables. 
Who  can  calculate  the  telling  effect  of  them:  the  sower 
and  the  soil  (Luke  8:4-15);  the  house  on  rock  or  sand 
(Luke  6:47-49);  the  good  Samaritan  (Luke  10:25-37); 
the  prodigal  son  (Luke  15:11-32);  the  sheep  and  the  goats 
(Matthew  25:31-46)?  The  people  marveled  then  and  we 
marvel  still  "at  the  gracious  words  which  proceeded  out 
of  his  mouth." 

Another  element  in  his  manner  of  teaching  is  that  he 
taught  with  authority.  This  is  specifically  recorded  at  the 
outset  of  his  work  in  Capernaum  (Mark  1:22)  and  at  the 
end  of  his  Sermon  on  the  Mount  (Matthew  7:29).  But 
the  air  of  authority  clusters  around  all  of  his  sayings.  He 
did  not  teach  with  the  authority  of  office  or  of  formal 
learning  as  did  the  scribes  and  Pharisees.  He  did,  however, 
possess  knowledge  of  the  Scriptures  which  amazed  the 
doctors  in  the  temple  (Luke  2:46,  47)  and  enabled  him 
to  discomfit  his  accusers  after  their  own  rabbinical  fashion 
(Luke  6:4;  John  10:34-36).  More  characteristically,  he 
used  the  Scriptures  with  fresh  discernment  and  thus  spoke 
with  authority  in  correcting  the  current  errors  in  their 
interpretation.  "You  are  wrong,  because  you  know  neither 
the  scriptures  nor  the  power  of  God"  (Matthew  22:29). 
"Go  and  learn  what  this  means,  'I  desire  mercy,  and  not 
sacrifice'  "  (Matthew  9:13).  He  taught  with  the  self- 
substantiating  authority  of  truth  and  of  his  own  moral 
character.  The  response  he  would  leave  to  the  disposition 
of  his  hearers.    "Because  I  tell  you  the  truth,  you  do  not 


He  Went  About  Doing  Good  73 

believe  me.    Which  of  you  convicts  me  of  sin?"    (John 
8:45,  46). 

The  full  strength  of  his  authority  was  exercised  when 
he  set  his  own  discerning  word  up  above  the  word  of 
Moses  and  the  ancient  law.  "You  have  heard  that  it  was 
said.  .  .  .  But  I  say  unto  you  .  .  ."  (Matthew  5:21,  27, 
31,  33,  38,  43).  It  has  been  the  Christian  belief  therefore 
that  the  words  of  Jesus  Christ  come  to  us  with  the  ultimate 
authority  of  the  voice  of  God.  What  he  taught  is  not 
merely  another  set  of  sayings  by  another  village  sage, 
albeit  wiser  than  all  others.  Dr.  William  A.  Curtis  of 
Edinburgh  sums  up  this  authoritative  quality  of  his 
teaching  as  follows: 

It  is  noteworthy  that  it  is  in  conversation  and  in  discussion 
alone  that  His  manner  and  thought  and  speech  approaches  to  the 
rabbinical  style,  quoting,  illustrating  from  Scripture,  inferring, 
parrying,  refuting,  epitomizing  the  Law  and  the  Prophets  or  the 
Commandments,  and  comparing  commandments.  When  He  is  left 
to  Himself  and  His  heart  and  mind  are  overflowing,  He  speaks  in 
quite  other  fashion.  Calm,  assured,  lofty,  persuasive,  above  the 
region  of  cloud  and  storm,  He  speaks  like  a  spirit  descending  from 
the  open  heavens  and  exhaling  upon  earth  the  pure  atmosphere 
of  a  serener  world.  In  such  passages,  whether  enunciating  truths 
concerning  God  or  principles  for  human  life  and  fellowship,  or 
statements  regarding  Himself  and  His  mission,  He  leaves  behind 
Him  altogether  the  characteristic  manner  both  of  Scribes  and 
Prophets,  and  utters  sayings  which  ring  with  Divine  assurance  and 
with  superhuman  simplicity.2 

Content  and  Emphases  of  His  Teaching 

The  themes  of  his  teaching  are  considered  more  fully 
in  the  other  chapters  of  this  handbook.  But  a  brief  glimpse 
should  be  given  here  as  we  consider  the  specific  work  of 
his  public  ministry  "in  the  days  of  his  flesh.,,    Teaching 


2  William  A.  Curtis,  Jesus  Christ  the  Teacher   (London:    Oxford  University 
Press,  1945),  page  49.    Reprinted  by  permission  of  the  author. 


74  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

men  the  truth  was  part  of  his  saving  work.  The  significance 
of  his  life  and  of  his  death  finds  illumination  in  the  themes 
and  content  of  his  teaching.  Through  these,  as  well  as 
through  his  deeds,  we  can  see  the  mind  and  the  will  of  God. 
His  teachings  do  not  easily  fit  into  any  scheme  of  systematic 
theology.  But  the  recurrent  emphases  are  clear.  The 
central  theme  is  God's  kingdom  and  his  righteousness.  He 
was  not  talking  to  atheists  but  to  a  nation  that  passionately 
believed  in  God.  They  had  accepted  God's  sovereign  rule 
over  heaven  and  earth  and  his  special  rule  over  Israel. 

Jesus  built  upon  this  faith  and  showed  that  God's 
kingly  rule  was  that  of  a  sovereign  father.  Such  a  father 
was  exacting  and  impartial  indeed  but  he  also  sought  out 
his  children  in  love  and  mercy,  and  his  rule  was  a  rule 
of  justice  and  love.  While  he  had  a  special  calling  for 
Israel,  he  was  the  Father  of  all  mankind.  Not  all  are  sons 
in  the  highest  sense  (Matthew  5:45)  but  the  difference  is 
one  of  inner  spirit,  not  of  race.  That  spirit  may  be  in  a 
Roman  officer  (Luke  7:9),  or  in  a  despised  Samaritan  of 
mixed  breed  (Luke  10:33).  It  is  men  like  these  who  shall 
come  into  the  kingdom  while  the  men  with  pride  of  race 
are  left  outside  (Matthew  8:5-13).  He  thus  promised 
entrance  into  the  kingdom  to  a  group  of  people  different 
from  what  most  people  expected.  Not  the  rich  but  the 
poor;  not  the  wise  scribes  but  children;  not  righteous 
according  to  current  reckoning  but  sinners  who  repented, 
whether  harlots  or  despised  tax  collectors.  God's  forgive- 
ness is  available  for  such  repentant  sinners  and  they  are 
called  to  be  likewise  forgiving  of  others. 

God's  rule  was  always  in  effect  in  the  rain  and  the 
sunshine  but  it  was  being  especially  realized  in  Jesus'  own 
ministry.  In  the  driving  out  of  demons  he  saw  Satan  falling 
like  lightning  from  heaven  (Luke  10:18)  and  the  rule  of 
God  coming  upon  the  people  (Matthew  12:28).  Both  John 


He  Went  About  Doing  Good  75 

the  Baptist  and  Jesus  stressed  the  fullness  of  time  and  the 
specific  advent  of  God's  rule  in  the  ministry  of  Jesus.  The 
kingdom  of  God  was  at  hand  (Matthew  3:2;  4:17;  Mark 
1:15).  John  had  expected  it  to  be  a  ministry  chiefly  of 
swift  and  severe  judgment,  but  Jesus  took  his  pattern  from 
Isaiah's  prophecy.  In  the  Nazareth  synagogue  and  in 
answering  John's  emissaries,  he  used  this  pattern  from 
Isaiah  to  authenticate  his  work  and  to  make  clear  that  in 
it  they  should  discern  the  "year  of  the  Lord's  favor"  (Luke 
4:16-21;  7:18-22). 

The  rule  of  God  is  a  rule  of  righteousness.  Jesus  took 
this  with  new  seriousness  and  laid  its  claims  urgently  upon 
his  hearers.  The  righteousness  of  the  scribes  and  Pharisees 
must  be  surpassed  (Matthew  5:20)  and  nothing  less  than 
God's  own  righteousness  must  be  sought  (Matthew  6:33). 
God's  own  perfection  is  the  standard  for  men  and  no 
accommodations  are  allowed  because  of  the  hardness  of 
men's  hearts.  It  is  not  enough  to  abide  by  external  codes 
of  conduct.  The  inner  motivation  is  even  more  important 
and  must  be  purified.  The  rule  of  God  requires  single- 
hearted  devotion.  "No  man  can  serve  two  masters.  .  .  . 
But  seek  first  his  kingdom  and  his  righteousness"  (Mat- 
thew 6:24,  33). 

Moral  concern  based  on  the  requirements  of  God's 

will  is  thus  seen  to  be  the  recurrent  theme  of  Jesus.    His 

moral  teachings  are  scattered  through  his  parables  and 

other  sayings.   They  are  gathered  into  characteristic  form 

in  the  Sermon  on  the  Mount.   This  sermon,  according  to 

Amos  N.  Wilder, 

has  been  accounted  the  most  searching  and  powerful  utterance  we 
possess  on  what  concerns  the  moral  life.  It  awakens  men  to  an 
immense  seriousness  and  responsibility,  and  quickens  the  conscience 
to  unsuspected  ranges  of  obligation.  It  discovers  man's  moral  nature 
to  him.  .  .  .  Woe  to  him,  indeed,  who  once  hears  or  reads  these 
words!     For    they    are    so    formulated    and    proclaimed    that    the 


76  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

obligation  they  impose  is  self-evident,  and  one  can  never  thereafter 
free  oneself  of  their  burden.  In  this  sense  the  sermon  creates 
conscience  where  it  did  not  before  exist.8 

His  Teachings  Are  Relevant  Today 

The  relevance  of  Jesus'  moral  teachings  is  a  matter 
of  much  discussion  and  difference  of  opinion.  They  set 
a  standard  so  high  and  lay  a  claim  so  strong  that  many 
attempts  are  made  to  reduce  their  authority  or  their 
relevance. 

Some  do  this  by  questioning  Jesus  Christ's  own 
authority.  There  are  outright  atheists  or  anti-Christian 
rebels  like  Nietzsche,  who  called  Jesus'  ethic  a  "slave 
morality,"  or  Marx,  who  called  religion  "the  opiate  of 
the  people."  Such  men  are  a  challenge  to,  and  judgment 
upon,  Christians.  The  present  study  will  have  to  deal 
more  specifically,  however,  with  questions  raised  within 
the  Christian  community. 

There  are  others  who  say  Jesus  lived  long  ago  in  a 
prescientific  culture  and  a  preindustrial  economy  and 
therefore  he  could  not  be  expected  to  be  an  adequate  moral 
authority  for  us  today.  Such  a  view  overlooks  the  profound 
similarities  of  ethical  problems  in  all  cultures.  It  overlooks 
the  worth  of  naive  and  childlike  insights  into  moral  values. 
Honesty,  friendliness,  mutuality,  and  other  virtues  are 
especially  illuminated  by  their  simpler  forms.  Jesus  knew 
his  way  around  in  the  moral  world  of  his  day  and  his 
discerning  simplicity  is  precisely  the  source  of  his  moral 
authority. 

Another  way  of  minimizing  Jesus'  authority  is 
claiming  that  he  was  expecting  the  imminent  and 
apocalyptic  coming  of  the  kingdom  of  God.  The  judgment 
was  immediately  at  hand  and  therefore  he  formulated  an 

8  The   Interpreter's   Bible    (Nashville:     Abingdon-Cokesbury,    1951),    Volume 
VII,  page  155. 


He  Went  About  Doing  Good  77 

"interim-ethic"  for  the  brief  period  before  the  end.  It  is 
argued  similarly  about  the  early  Christians  that,  since 
they  expected  an  early  end  of  the  age,  their  understanding 
of  Jesus'  teachings  cannot  be  applicable  to  the  longer  eras 
of  history.  This  mode  of  thought  overlooks  the  slow  and 
steady  durability  of  early  Christian  morals.  It  overlooks 
the  independent  discernments  of  Jesus.  It  is  absurd  to 
assume  that  Jesus,  who  set  himself  above  Moses  and 
against  the  Pharisees,  would  be  mistakenly  bound  by  the 
outlook  of  their  current  apocalypticism.  In  any  case,  moral 
insights  are  sharpened  rather  than  distorted  by  the 
imminence  of  judgment. 

Another  way  of  minimizing  Jesus'  authority  is  to 
argue  that  all  his  precepts  can  be  discovered  in  the  sayings 
of  the  rabbis.  There  are  many  parallels  to  be  found  in 
the  Jewish  writings.  But  they  represent  "needles  of  truth 
in  great  stacks  of  straw."  Jesus  was  original  in  his 
selectivity,  as  well  as  in  his  emphases.  He  added  new 
dimensions  to  the  meaning  of  love  and  forgiveness.  He 
added  matchless  grace  of  presentation  in  parables.  Most 
of  all,  he  embodied  his  precepts  in  his  own  life.  The  moral 
authority  of  Jesus  has  not  been  minimized  by  these 
criticisms.  The  last  word  has  always  been  his  own.  The 
centuries  have  enhanced  rather  than  reduced  his  claim. 

Some  tend  to  reduce  the  relevance  of  Jesus'  teaching 
by  questioning  the  nature  of  his  moral  precepts.  They 
regard  them  as  an  impossible  ideal  which  serves  mainly 
to  produce  despair  of  human  achievement.  Men  are 
driven  thus  to  repent  and  to  throw  themselves  in  faith 
upon  the  mercy  of  God.  Those  who  attempt  seriously  to 
fulfill  the  precepts  are  called  perfectionists  and,  it  is  argued, 
they  are  most  liable  to  sin;  for  their  very  moral  achieve- 
ments produce  a  subtle  pride  which  is  the  worst  of  sins. 
To  be  sure,  such  perfectionists  are  especially  subject  to 


78  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

subtle  temptations,  but  they  are  right  in  accepting  the 
moral  requirements  of  discipleship.  In  the  face  of  Jesus' 
teachings  they  will  always  be  unprofitable  servants,  for 
their  moral  efforts  are  always  made  with  enabling  grace, 
not  in  their  own  strength.  Pride  is  a  subtle  force  indeed 
and  can  infect  both  perfectionism  and  disavowal  of 
perfectionism. 

Others  do  not  regard  Jesus'  moral  precepts  as  legisla- 
tion to  be  specifically  obeyed.  They  represent  rather  a 
set  of  general  principles  to  guide  us  in  our  ethical  problems 
and  a  spirit  which  should  animate  us  in  our  moral  life. 
This  view  is  a  good  corrective  of  the  legalism  which  besets 
all  moral  concern.  Jesus  and  Paul  both  leveled  their 
criticism  against  the  Pharisaic  mode  of  thought.  It  has 
been  well  remarked  that  the  Pharisees,  the  Jesuits,  and  the 
Puritans  were  all  especially  concerned  with  moral  behavior 
and  yet  all  of  them  became  bywords  of  legalism.  But  it 
is  easy  to  evade  or  thin  down  the  obligations  of  Jesus' 
precepts  by  crying  ''legalism"  or  "moralism"  and  relegating 
their  relevance  to  a  general  mood.  They  do  represent 
general  principles  which  need  to  be  interpreted  with 
imagination.  But  their  relevance  to  modern  problems 
should  be  seen  as  having  the  same  sharp  claim  today  as 
was  true  in  Jesus'  own  time. 

A  third  way  of  reducing  the  authority  of  Jesus'  moral 
teachings  is  to  limit  the  area  of  their  claim.  Monasticism 
sets  up  a  high  standard  for  the  orders.  Their  members  are 
called  "religious"  and  the  implication  is  clear  that  the 
laity  are  not  expected  to  live  by  as  high  a  standard.  At 
the  Reformation  this  double  standard  was  abandoned  for 
Protestants.  But  many  of  them  set  up  a  dualism  between 
one's  obligations  as  a  church  member  and  one's  obligations 
as  a  citizen  of  the  state.  Another  form  of  this  dualism  is 
to  regard  Jesus'  precepts  as  applicable  only  to  one's  private 


He  Went  About  Doing  Good  79 

life  in  his  family  and  in  his  personal  relations  with  other 
men.  Beyond  that,  "business  is  business."  Many  religious 
groups  take  Jesus'  precepts  seriously  for  their  own  total 
communal  life.  In  fulfillment  of  this  ideal  they  withdraw 
from  the  world  and  from  participation  in  political 
activities.  Dispensationalism  limits  the  area  of  Jesus' 
precepts  by  postponing  their  application  to  a  kingdom  age 
which  is  in  the  future.4 

In  view  of  this  dilemma  of  applying  Jesus'  exalted 
moral  teachings  to  daily  life,  what  position  can  we  hold? 
For  one  thing,  it  is  clear  that  they  are  not  the  central  basis 
of  Christian  "salvation."  Man  is  not  saved  by  moral 
achievement  but  by  grace  through  faith.  While  man  is 
not  saved  by  character,  he  is,  however,  saved  unto  char- 
acter. "Why  do  you  call  me  'Lord,  Lord,'  and  not  do  what 
I  tell  you?"  (Luke  6:46).  "We  entreat  you  not  to  accept 
the  grace  of  God  in  vain"    (2  Corinthians  6:1). 

Secondly,  these  precepts  are  indeed  a  counsel  of 
perfection.  "You,  therefore,  must  be  perfect,  as  your 
heavenly  Father  is  perfect"  (Matthew  5:48).  For  the 
Christian  the  norm  is  not  the  average  or  the  minimum, 
but  the  ideal  and  the  true.  Nothing  less  than  this  can  be 
the  good. 

In  the  third  place,  the  precepts  of  Jesus  require 
constant  interpretation  to  discover  the  terms  in  which  his 
explicit  commands  apply  to  current  issues.  This  is  not  to 
reduce  their  relevance,  however,  but  to  make  it  explicit. 

Finally,  high  and  rigorous  as  these  precepts  are,  we 
cannot  evade  their  claim  upon  us.  They  are  stated  in 
absolute  terms  as  the  will  of  God  for  men.  Beyond 
questions  of  realism  or  relevance  is  the  question  of  right. 

*  Cf.  The  Scofield  Reference  Bible  (New  York:  Oxford  Press,  1917),  footnote 
on  Matthew  5,  pages  999,  1000:  "The  Sermon  on  the  Mount  in  its  primary 
application  gives  neither  the  privilege  nor  the  duty  of  the  Church.  These  are 
found  in  the  Epistles." 


80  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

A  man  ought  always  to  do  what  is  right.  These  precepts  set 
up  standards  of  right  for  everybody.  All  men  ought  to 
follow  the  Golden  Rule.  All  men  ought  -to  seek  first  God's 
rule  and  his  righteousness.  "No  man  can  serve  two 
masters."  The  claim  of  these  precepts  is  especially  strong 
upon  avowed  Christians.  They  know  them  better.  They 
profess  to  follow  Christ  as  Lord.  They  have  especial  grace 
through  forgiveness  of  sin  and  the  gift  of  God's  Spirit 
which  is  available  to  them  for  such  moral  endeavor.  This 
will,  of  course,  issue  in  division  and  strain  between  these 
precepts  and  current  codes  of  ethics.  It  will  issue  also  in 
persecution,  suffering,  and  sacrifice.  But  it  is  part  of  the 
realism  of  Jesus  Christ  that  he  anticipated  it  in  his 
teaching  and  underwent  it  triumphantly  in  his  life,  death, 
and  resurrection.  We  should  not  evade  or  water  down 
this  claim,  or  minimize  what  God  can  enable  a  redeemed 
man  to  do. 

We  have  been  too  prompt  often  to  cry  down  the  mandates 
on  love,  forgiveness,  purity,  and  non-retaliation  because  we  have 
failed  to  take  account  of  the  redemptive  action  of  the  gospel.  There 
are  levels  of  Christian  attainment  and  endowment  paid  for  at  a  great 
price,  all  too  rarely  exhibited.  In  some  lives  the  generosities  of 
God  and  the  charities  of  Christ  overflow  in  such  measure  that 
what  can  only  be  called  moral  miracles  result;  and  man's  ancient 
foes  are  decisively  worsted.5 

We  have  looked  at  the  work  of  Christ6  in  his  life  and 
have  noted  that  his  grace  was  shown  in  the  exemplary 
character  he  achieved,  in  his  compassionate  ministry  of 
helpfulness,  and  in  the  truth  that  he  disclosed  as  a  teacher. 
Let  us  look  now  at  his  work  of  grace  in  terms  of  his  death. 

6  Amos  N.  Wilder,  op.  cit.,  page  164. 

6  Another  major  aspect  of  Christ's  work  on  earth  was  the  establishment  of 
a  new  community.  This  work  is  variously  regarded  as  the  inauguration  of  the 
kingdom  of  God  and  the  founding  of  the  church.  While  this  work  was  first 
initiated  during  his  public  ministry,  it  was  more  fully  established  after  his 
death.  The  chapters  on  the  Holy  Spirit  and  the  church  will  give  fuller 
consideration  to  this  important  work. 


CHAPTER  FIVE 


Greater  Love  Hath  No  Man 


We  shall  now  explore  the  redemptive  WORK  OF  CHRIST 
which  was  wrought  in  and  through  his  death.  One  is 
struck,  first  of  all,  by  the  large  place  in  Christian  belief 
given  to  Christ's  death  and  to  the  events  surrounding  it. 
Many  men  have  achieved  sufficient  fame  for  their  birthdays 
to  become  noted  holidays.  It  is  the  special  feature  of  Jesus 
Christ's  influence  that  the  end  of  his  life  is  given  equal 
celebration  with  his  birthday.  Christmas  and  Easter  are 
the  high  points  of  the  Christian  year.  A  large  place  is 
given  to  Christ's  death  in  the  Gospel  records.  Beginning 
with  his  final  arrival  in  Jerusalem,  over  a  third  of  the 
chapters  are  given  to  this  material,  a  total  of  thirty-three 
out  of  eighty-nine  chapters. 

The  symbol  of  Christ's  death  is  the  cross  and  this  is 
the  central  symbol  of  Christianity.  This  symbol  appears 
repeatedly  in  church  architecture.  It  is  a  recurrent  theme 
in  Christian  art  and  literature.  It  is  dominant  in 
hymnody,  in  ritual,  and  in  all  the  language  of  devotion 
and  worship.  Discipline  and  penitence,  guilt  and  forgive- 
ness, sorrow  and  joy,  death  and  life  all  find  their  deepest 
meaning  in  the  symbol  of  the  cross. 

Some  Preliminary  Considerations 
As  we  seek  to  understand  this  central  fact  of  Christian 
salvation  let  us  make  first  some  preliminary  clarifications 
and  then  consider  the  heart  of  redemption  in  the  doctrine 
of  the  atonement. 


82  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

A  Redemptive  Death  Foreseen 

In  the  first  place,  Christ  foresaw  his  impending  death 
and  considered  it  as  redemptive.  It  is  hardly  possible  to 
determine  when  or  even  how  Jesus  came  to  foresee  his 
death.  Our  former  discussion  of  his  real  humanity  would 
rule  out  the  idea  that  he  had  a  blueprint  of  his  life 
miraculously  mapped  out  for  him.  Artists  who  picture 
cross  shadows  on  the  floor  of  his  Nazareth  carpenter  shop 
are  using  imagination  true  to  later  events  but  not  based 
on  the  record. 

We  can  be  certain  that  Jesus  had  early  premonitions 
of  the  kind  of  struggle  he  had  ahead  of  him.  His  tempta- 
tions in  the  wilderness,  when  seen  through  the  later  gloom 
of  Gethsemane  and  the  rebuke  to  Peter,  "Get  behind  me, 
Satan"  (Mark  8:33),  indicate  that  he  discerned  a  deep 
difference  between  his  own  messianic  intentions  and  the 
popular  expectations.  His  early  rejection  in  Nazareth 
and  the  arrest  and  beheading  of  John  made  clear  the  grim 
terms  of  a  prophet's  career. 

Repeated  encounters  with  unbelief  and  opposition, 
even  by  the  most  religious  leaders  of  synagogue  and  temple, 
indicated  that  if  he  went  on  with  his  intended  work  and 
the  public  officials  went  on  with  their  lines  of  resistance 
a  severe  clash  would  be  inevitable.  He  was  familiar  with 
the  tragic  history  of  earlier  prophets  in  Israel.  He  no 
doubt  lived  close  enough,  in  Nazareth,  to  Roman 
executions  by  crucifixion  that  the  pattern  of  the  cross  was 
a  dire  threat  to  his  mission. 

As  doors  of  acceptance  increasingly  closed  upon  him, 
he  "began  to  teach  .  .  .  that  the  Son  of  man  must  suffer 
many  things,  and  be  rejected  by  the  elders  and  the  chief 
priests  and  the  scribes,  and  be  killed,  and  after  three  days 
rise  again"  (Mark  8:31).  He  also  set  the  cross  before  his 
followers  as  the  pattern  of  their  discipleship    (verse  34). 


w  Greater  Love  Hath  No  Man  83 

His  last  journey  to  Jerusalem  was  undertaken  with  clear 
knowledge  of  its  tragic  probabilities.  "Behold,  we  are 
going  up  to  Jerusalem;  and  the  Son  of  man  will  be 
delivered  to  the  chief  priests  and  the  scribes,  and  they  will 
condemn  him  to  death  .  .  .  and  kill  him;  and  after  three 
days  he  will  rise"  (Mark  10:33,  34).  We  should  not 
conclude  that  Jesus  did  this  deliberately  as  a  maneuver  to 
get  himself  killed  either  as  a  martyr  or  as  a  redeemer.  That 
would  be  the  equivalent  of  suicide.  He  went  to  bear 
prophetic  witness  against  the  evils  centering  in  the  temple. 
He  went  to  appeal  once  more  to  the  nation  that  they  follow 
the  ways  of  God.  He  went  as  a  new  kind  of  messiah, 
"humble  and  mounted  on  an  ass,"  to  appeal  to  the  people 
to  follow  a  different  pattern  of  life.  "And  when  he  drew 
near  and  saw  the  city  he  wept  over  it,  saying,  'Would  that 
even  today  you  knew  the  things  that  make  for  peace!' 
(Luke  19:41,  42).  This  was  the  climax  of  the  tension 
between  prophet  and  people  and  the  climax  of  their  fateful 
rejection  of  him. 

It  is  easier  to  trace  the  foreseen  certainty  of  his  death 
than  to  discern  the  foreseen  redemptive  effect  of  it.  But 
when  he  viewed  his  work  as  a  whole  he  said,  "For  the 
Son  of  man  also  came  not  to  be  served  but  to  serve,  and 
to  give  his  life  as  a  ransom  for  many"  (Mark  10:45).  The 
Gospels  represent  Jesus  as  coming  to  his  task,  according  to 
a  present-day  scholar,  "at  the  call  of  a  prophetic  voice  and 
receiving,  first  the  call  to  become,  and  then  ordination  as 
at  once  the  Messiah  of  the  Remnant  and  the  Suffering 
Servant  of  the  Lord."1    Judging  by  his  own   Scripture 


1  John  Wick  Bowman,  The  Intention  of  Jesus  (Philadelphia:  Westminster 
Press,  1943),  page  2.  Used  by  permission.  The  full  thesis  of  this  impressive 
book  is  summarized  this  way:  "Jesus  and  he  alone  was  responsible  for  the 
fusion  of  the  prophetic  concepts  noted,  and  everything  he  ever  said  or  did 
was  motivated  by  his  'intention'  to  fulfill  the  demands  of  the  resultant  Suffering 
Servant,  Messiah  of  the  Remnant  concept"  (Ibid.). 


84  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 


* 


quotations,  Jesus  was  especially  nurtured  by  Deuteronomy, 
Isaiah,  and  the  Psalms.  The  role  of  the  Servant  which  he 
espoused  as  the  Messiah  was  especially  nurtured  by  these 
portions  from  the  Old  Testament.  A  glimpse  of  this  is 
given  in  a  postresurrection  statement  he  made  to  the 
disciples:  "Everything  written  about  me  in  the  law  of 
Moses  and  the  prophets  and  the  psalms  must  be  fulfilled. 
.  .  .  Thus  it  is  written,  that  the  Christ  should  suffer  and 
on  the  third  day  rise  from  the  dead"  (Luke  24:44,  46). 
Thus  we  see  that  Jesus  was  increasingly  certain  that  the 
rejection  and  suffering  he  faced  was  the  will  of  God  for 
his  messianic  mission.  He  regarded  this  as  the  price  of 
his  redemptive  work. 

The  certainty  was  wrought  out  as  he  endured  the 
cross.  The  agony  in  Gethsemane  and  the  cry  of  dereliction 
on  the  cross  give  us  a  glimpse  of  the  struggle  he  underwent 
to  discern  and  to  follow  this  pathway.  As  he  thus  moved 
toward  the  cross,  albeit  one  which  others  were  laying  on 
him,  he  deliberately  chose  the  way  of  suffering  for  our 
redemption.  He  said  significantly,  "I  lay  down  my  life  for 
the  sheep.  .  .  .  No  one  takes  it  from  me,  but  I  lay  it  down 
of  my  own  accord"  (John  10:15,  18).  One  is  reminded 
here  of  the  French  soldier  who  had  only  one  arm.  A  lady 
said  to  him,  "My  poor  soldier,  it  is  too  bad  you  lost  your 
arm."  He  replied  quickly,  "Ah,  madam!  I  did  not  lose  it, 
I  gave  it!"  The  cross  of  Christ  was  foreseen  by  him  and 
the  pathway  to  it  was  deliberately  chosen.  It  was  not 
an  inadvertance  of  public  relations  or  a  political  miscalcu- 
lation. He  laid  down  his  life  for  the  sheep. 

His  Life  and  Death  Belong  Together 

A  second  preliminary  clarification  which  should  be 
made  is  that  the  life  of  Christ  and  the  death  of  Christ 
should  be  considered  together  as  a  redemptive  unit.  There 


Greater  Love  Hath  No  Man  85 

is  sometimes  a  tendency  to  put  emphasis  on  only  one  to 
the  erroneous  exclusion  of  the  other.  They  belong 
together.  The  life  of  Christ  preceded  his  death  and  gave 
meaning  and  moral  significance  to  the  cross.  Do  we 
presume  that,  if  Jesus  had  been  slaughtered  with  the 
other  innocents  in  Bethlehem,  his  death  would  have  the 
redemptive  significance  it  came  to  have  on  Calvary?  All  his 
compassionate  ministry,  all  his  teachings,  and  all  his 
matchless  character  gave  substance  and  significance  to  his 
death.  There  were  three  men  crucified  on  Calvary.  The 
redemptive  value  of  the  middle  cross  lay  in  the  life  Jesus 
had  lived  and  the  kind  of  teachings  he  had  given.  One  can 
say  that  his  redemptive  work  did  not  inhere  in  his  being 
dead  so  much  as  in  the  life  he  gave  up  in  death.  It  has 
been  suggested  by  Dr.  John  Whale  that  in  the  sacrifices 
of  the  Old  Testament  the  significant  point  of  the  offering 
came  when  the  worshiper  or  priest  placed  his  hands  on  the 
head  of  the  live  animal  and  gave  it  over  to  God. 

Sacrifice  is  gravely  misinterpreted  when  its  meaning  is  limited 
to  the  death  of  the  victim.  Thus  to  isolate  one  element  in  the 
ritual  is  to  misconceive  its  purpose,  .  .  .  not  the  destruction  of  life 
but  the  representative  surrender  of  life.  This  is  the  God-given  way 
whereby  the  sinner  identifies  himself  with  the  life  offered  to  God.2 

Similarly,  we  can  note  that  the  point  at  which  the 
blood  of  sacrifices  had  its  sharpest  potency  was  reached 
when  it  was  being  shed.  "It  is  the  blood  that  makes  atone- 
ment by  reason  of  the  life"  (Leviticus  17:11).  It  was,  so 
to  speak,  "live"  blood  that  the  priests  used  in  their 
sprinkling  ceremonies.8    Accordingly,   in   the   institution 


2  John  S.  Whale,  Christian  Doctrine  (New  York:  Cambridge  University  Press, 
1941),  page  84. 

3  This  is  all  the  more  impressive  since  "for  the  ancient  mind  blood,  even 
when  shed,  was  still  perilous  and  potent,  full  of  latent  life,  and  capable  of  working 
on  persons  or  things  in  contact  with  it."  James  Hastings  (ed.),  Encyclopedia  of 
Religion  and  Ethics  (New  York:  Scribners,  1910),  H.  Wheeler  Robinson's  article 
on  "Blood,"  Volume  I,  page  715. 


86  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

of  the  communion  rites,  Christ  said  to  his  disciples,  "This 
is  my  blood  of  the  covenant,  which  is  poured  out  for  many" 
(Mark  14:24).  We  have,  therefore,  in  the  wide  use  of 
"blood"  in  our  salvation  beliefs  a  vivid  and  profound 
symbol,  not  of  mere  death  or  deadness,  but  rather  of  life 
given  up  in  death.  It  is  the  life  given  up  which  gives  point 
and  meaning  to  the  death. 

On  the  other  hand,  the  death  of  Christ  intensifies 
and  seals  all  that  he  was  and  did  in  his  life.  It  raises  it  all 
to  the  ultimate  level  of  meaning  and  effectiveness.  We 
acknowledge  this  in  the  familiar  phrases,  "the  last  drop  of 
blood,"  and  "the  last  full  measure  of  devotion."  Jesus 
Christ  stated  it  in  these  words,  "Greater  love  has  no  man 
than  this,  that  a  man  lay  down  his  life  for  his  friends" 
(John  15:13).  In  one  sense,  Jesus  Christ,  in  his  death,  was 
acting  in  full  harmony  with  his  whole  life  and  teaching. 
He  had  taken  the  role  of  the  Servant  in  all  his  public 
ministry.  Whether  healing  or  teaching,  he  came  not  to 
be  served  but  to  serve.  What  he  did  in  Jerusalem  during 
his  passion  was  a  direct  extension  of  the  line  of  his 
whole  life. 

Bishop  W.  F.  McDowell  once  likened  this  to  an 
instance  in  a  New  England  fishing  village.  In  a  sudden 
storm  a  fishing  boat  was  capsized  at  a  perilous  distance 
from  shore.  Sandy  was  the  stoutest  swimmer  and  helped 
now  one  and  now  another  of  his  comrades  to  reach  safety. 
His  strenuous  efforts  cost  him  his  own  life  and  the  whole 
village  was  stunned  by  grief  at  this  sudden  turn  of  events. 
At  the  funeral,  however,  they  were  all  lifted  above  their 
sorrow  by  the  widow's  brave  and  true  words:  "All  during 
his  life,  if  Sandy  had  anything  his  friends  needed,  he  gladly 
gave  it  to  them.  At  last  they  needed  his  life  and  he  gladly 
gave  them  that!" 

In  another  sense,   however,   the  actual   dying   adds 


Greater  Love  Hath  No  Man  87 

greatly  to  all  the  life  had  meant  hitherto.  The  act  of 
pouring  out  blood  goes  far  beyond  the  readiness  to  do  it. 
We  all  recognize  this  on  the  rare  occasions  when  men 
actually  die  as  martyrs  to  a  cause.  They  seal  their  witness 
with  their  blood.  There  is  an  intensity  and  finality  about 
such  an  event  that  subdues  men  by  its  profound  power.  It 
reveals  the  depth  and  sincerity  of  the  life's  whole  meaning. 
Only  then  can  we  see  what  the  intention  had  been.  We 
also  recognize  that  the  death  represented  a  specific  act 
which  lifted  the  intention  to  the  ultimate  level  of  actuality. 
Jesus  chose  the  way  of  the  cross  before  he  went  to  Jeru- 
salem. He  confirmed  his  choice  in  the  agony  of  Geth- 
semane.  But  he  endured  the  cross  on  Calvary.  Our 
redemption  was  wrought  in  his  death.  "Christ  died  for 
our  sins"   (1  Corinthians  15:3). 

There  Is  Power  in  the  Blood 

There  is  always  danger  that  we  drift  into  morbidity 
in  regard  to  the  blood  of  Christ.  Our  liturgy  and 
hymnody  sometimes  leave  the  impression  that  ours  is  a 
"slaughterhouse  religion."  The  Roman  Catholic  Miserere 
and  stress  on  the  "Sacred  Blood,"  the  Moravian  emphasis 
on  the  "wounds,"  and  some  of  our  gospel  songs  border  on 
morbidity  and  tend  to  miss  the  glad  and  joyous  quality  of 
our  faith. 

But  we  can  be  in  equal  or  worse  error  if  we  have 
fastidious  distaste  for  the  facts  of  life  and  death.  There  is 
a  grim  and  glorious  realism  about  our  redemption  as  we 
learn  of  it  in  the  New  Testament.  "You  were  bought  with 
a  price"  (1  Corinthians  6:20).  "The  cup  of  blessing  which 
we  bless,  is  it  not  a  participation  in  the  blood  of  Christ?" 
(1  Corinthians  10:16).  "The  blood  of  Jesus  his  Son 
cleanses  us  from  all  sin"  (1  John  1:7).  Our  redemption 
is  down  to  earth  and  deals  with  the  basic  elements  of  life. 


88  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

There  is  always  danger  that  we  drift  into  morbidity  in 
regard  to  the  blood  of  Christ. 

There  is  also  danger  that  we  drift  into  magic.  The 
Roman  Catholic  belief  in  transubstantiation,  according 
to  which  the  consecration  of  the  elements  changes  the  wine 
into  the  substance  of  the  blood,  is  an  instance  of  this 
danger.  The  same  is  true  when  redemptive  significance 
is  sought  in  the  chemistry  of  the  blood.  The  danger  of 
magic  is  present  when  the  word  blood  and  phrases  about 
the  blood  are  repeated  as  if  the  power  lies  in  the  words 
or  as  if  we  shall  be  saved  by  our  much  speaking.  When 
we  speak  of  blood  we  are  speaking  in  symbols.  In  our 
ritual  we  use  a  long  line  of  symbols.  When  we  speak  of 
the  cup  of  blessing  we  use  the  word  cup  as  a  symbol  for 
the  actual  cup.  We  use  the  actual  cup  as  a  symbol  for  the 
contents  of  it.  We  often  use  grape  juice  as  a  symbol  for 
wine.  We  use  wine,  following  Jesus  Christ  himself,  as  a 
symbol  for  his  blood  poured  out.  And  the  blood  poured 
out  is  a  symbol  of  the  life  he  gave  up  in  death. 

We  cannot  say,  however,  that  anything  is  "just  a 
symbol."  A  symbol  always  is  a  sign  which  points  to  or 
signifies  something  other  than  itself.  It  nearly  always 
points  to  something  greater  than  itself.  In  matters  of  our 
redemption  our  symbols  point  to  realities  far  greater  than 
the  symbols.  They  point  to  the  blood  of  Christ  the  Son 
of  God.  And  the  blood  represents  the  matchless  and 
meaningful  life  which  he  laid  down  in  sacrifice  for  our 
redemption.  Paul  put  it  simply  when  he  spoke  of  "the 
Son  of  God,  who  loved  me  and  gave  himself  for  me" 
(Galatians  2:20).  Blood  is  an  elemental  symbol.  It  is  a 
vivid  and  accurate  symbol  of  life  given  up.  As  long  as 
we  live  by  blood  in  our  body  and  as  long  as  we  die  when 
it  is  shed,  it  will  remain  as  the  proper  symbol  of  Christ's 
redeeming  act.  It  will  always  remain  as  the  proper  symbol 


Greater  Love  Hath  No  Man  89 

which  unites  what  he  did  in  life  and  what  he  did  in  death 
to  redeem  us. 

The  Meaning  of  the  Atonement 
We  are  now  ready  to  consider  more  specifically  the 
heart  of  redemption  as  involved  in  the  doctrine  of  the 
atonement. 

God's  Saving  Act  Is  First 

We  should  note  first  of  all  that  all  thought  about  our 
redemption  as  Christians  is  reflection  upon  what  God 
has  done  through  Christ.  We  do  not  formulate  a  theory 
of  salvation  and  then  try  to  fit  Christ  into  it.  As  Christians 
we  start  with  the  facts  of  the  gospel  and  then  try  to  clarify 
their  meaning  to  our  minds  by  reflection.  Salvation  is 
not  produced  by  our  thought.  It  is  revealed  as  a  fact  or 
as  an  event  which  occurred  at  a  point  in  history.  It  was 
on  Good  Friday  under  Pontius  Pilate  as  to  time  and  on 
Calvary  outside  a  city  wall  as  to  place.  In  this  sense 
salvation  comes  to  us  primarily  as  a  witness  and  as  a  story 
rather  than  as  a  doctrine  or  a  set  of  beliefs. 

The  long  history  of  thought  about  the  atonement  is 
the  history  of  Christian  men's  attempts  to  clarify  the 
meaning  of  their  salvation.  The  gospel  has  been  preached 
and  men  have  been  saved  in  situations  where  no  structured 
or  logical  theory  of  the  atonement  has  had  a  part.  The 
story  of  the  crucifixion  of  Christ  has  had  its  own  power 
over  men's  hearts  and  it  has  been  power  to  save  and  to 
redeem.  In  the  presence  of  the  fact  of  the  cross  our 
theories  and  doctrinal  formulations  seem  to  shrivel. 

Analogies  from  the  long  history  of  martyrdom,  from  the 
market  where  slaves  are  bought  and  sold,  from  the  altar  where  lambs 
without  blemish  are  offered  up  for  man,  from  the  court  of  law 
where  debts  are  assessed  and  exacted,  criminals  are  sentenced  and 
penalties  defined,  from  times  of  war  when  "substitutes"  for  conscripts 


90  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

go  to  face  death,  from  domestic  and  civil  life  where  men  lay  down 
their  life  for  their  friends,  from  royal  courts  where  majesty  insulted 
has  to  be  propitiated  and  reconciled,  these  have  all  been  used  in 
the  effort  of  the  human  mind  to  find  a  formula  which  can  sum 
up  the  meaning  of  the  cross.  But  all  together  do  not  suffice  to 
furnish  the  desired  equation.  Confronted  by  the  emotions  of  the 
feeling  heart  they  seem  so  many  efforts  to  reckon  the  light  of  the 
sun  in  candle  power.* 

All  theories  are  analogies  and  elaborated  pictures  to 
help  our  minds  comprehend  the  full  meaning  and  power 
of  the  cross.  They  seek  to  make  clearer  why  it  was 
necessary  for  Christ  to  suffer,  what  he  effected  in  his  death 
on  the  cross,  and  how  his  gracious  work  in  dying  bears 
upon  our  lives  today. 

We  can  see  the  nature  and  meaning  of  the  cross  in 
more  personal  terms  if  we  consider  it  as  reconciling  us 
to  God  by  the  forgiveness  of  our  sins.  Reconciliation  is 
the  characteristic  word  in  the  New  Testament  rather  than 
atonement.  The  word  atonement  appeared  only  in 
Romans  5:11  in  the  King  James  Version.  It  has  been 
changed  to  reconciliation  in  later  versions  in  the  interests 
of  accuracy  of  translation.  Reconciliation  is  a  broader 
term  as  well  as  a  more  personal  one  and  it  includes  the 
central  meaning  of  atonement  as  at-one-ment.  In  con- 
sidering the  forgiveness  of  sins  and  the  reconciliation  of 
man  to  God  we  shall  anticipate  later  chapters  of  this  study 
of  belief,  but  the  ideas  are  familiar  ones  in  our  Christian 
teaching  and  experience.  Let  us  look  first  at  the  effects  of 
sin  in  man  and  on  God  and  then  at  how  the  cross  overcomes 
them. 

The  Effects  of  Sin  on  Man 

One  effect  of  sin  on  man  is  the  matter  of  guilt.   The 
fact  of  sin  is  made  obvious  and  terrible  by  the  feeling  of 

*  W.  A.  Curtis,  Jesus  Christ  the  Teacher  (London:    Oxford  University  Press, 
1943),  page  164.    Reprinted  by  permission  of  the  author. 


Greater  Love  Hath  No  Man  91 

guilt  which  besets  us  all.  This  feeling  that  we  have  done 
wrong  and  are  blameworthy  may  vary  in  poignancy  and  in 
pattern  but  it  is  a  pervasive  mark  of  human  experience. 
It  has  driven  men  to  extremes  of  anguish  and  of  remedial 
effort.  First-born  sons  have  been  offered  up,  the  body  has 
been  starved  or  slashed,  and  milder  forms  of  sacrifice  have 
been  used  in  search  of  expiation.  Psychotherapy  vies  with 
religious  revivalism  as  a  proffered  cure  for  the  problems 
of  guilt.  In  solitude  and  in  society  men  are  burdened  with 
the  age-old  questions,  "Is  there  no  balm  in  Gilead?  Is 
there  no  physician  there?"    (Jeremiah  8:22). 

A  second  effect  of  sin  is  the  feeling  of  alienation  and 
estrangement.  Man's  guilt  leaves  him  separated  from 
God,  much  as  we  are  loathe  to  meet  those  whom  we  have 
wronged.  In  addition  to  this  evasiveness  there  is  the  sense 
of  utter  loneliness  and  of  being  forsaken.  So  long  as  guilt 
remains,  this  feeling  of  abandonment  goes  with  it. 

A  third  effect  of  sin  on  man  is  a  sense  of  impotence 
and  inadequacy.  This  effect  stems  from  the  other  two 
— guilt  and  estrangement.  This  sense  of  inferiority  affects 
the  whole  person  and  it  is  especially  strong  in  the  moral 
realm.  William  James  has  written  memorably  of  this 
mood  as  against  that  of  the  muscular  and  self-assured 
person: 

The  athletic  attitude  tends  ever  to  break  down,  and  inevitably 
does  break  down  even  in  the  most  stalwart  when  the  organism 
begins  to  decay,  or  when  morbid  fears  invade  the  mind.  To  suggest 
personal  will  and  effort  to  one  all  sicklied  o'er  with  the  sense  of 
irremediable  impotence  is  to  suggest  the  most  impossible  of  things. 
.  .  .  Well,  we  are  all  such  helpless  failures  in  the  last  resort.  The 
sanest  and  best  of  us  are  of  one  clay  with  lunatics  and  prison 
inmates,  and  death  finally  runs  the  robustest  of  us  down.  And 
whenever  we  feel  this,  such  a  sense  of  the  vanity  and  provisionality 
of  our  voluntary  career  comes  over  us  that  all  our  morality  appears 
but  as  a  plaster  hiding  a  sore  it  can  never  cure,  and  all  our  well-doing 


92  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

as  the  hollowest  substitute  for  that  well-being  that  our  lives  ought 
to  be  grounded  in,  but  alas!  are  not.5 

The  Effects  of  Sin  on  God 

Now  let  us  look  at  what  man's  sin  does  to  God.  We 
can  be  sure  that  God  is  not  indifferent  to  anything  in  the 
moral  realm.  As  the  administrator  of  the  moral  order  and 
the  law  of  the  harvest  (Galatians  6:7,  8)  he  is  affected  by 
our  sins. 

In  the  first  place,  sin  arouses  God's  righteous  wrath. 
He  cannot  condone  sin  or  brook  evil.  This  conception  is 
woven  into  the  whole  Biblical  fabric.  Whether  we  use 
the  word  holiness  or  severity,  anger  or  wrath,  we  are 
dealing  with  a  clear  element  in  God's  character.  The  wrath 
of  God  is  not  an  impetuous  instability  of  his  character  in 
the  presence  of  personal  insult.  "The  wrath  of  God  is 
the  active  manifestation  of  his  essential  incapacity  to  be 
morally  indifferent,  and  to  let  evil  alone."6  Evil  touches  a 
nerve  in  God.  It  goes  against  his  grain.  In  addition  to  a 
kind  of  instinctive  repulsion  or  wincing,  God's  wrath 
takes  a  positive  form  and  he  moves  against  evil  and  seeks 
to  overcome  it.  Whether  we  try  to  think  of  this  result  as 
the  working  of  impersonal  moral  law  or  whether  we  ascribe 
it,  more  Biblically,  directly  to  God's  wrath,  we  are  speaking 
of  something  severe,  impartial,  and  inevitable  in  the  moral 
realm  as  a  result  of  man's  sin.  A  resistance  is  set  up 
against  it  and  judgment  is  encountered. 

Another  effect  of  sin  on  God  is  to  arouse  his  loving 
compassion  for  the  sinner.  This  note  is  less  frequent  but 
fully  as  explicit  in  the  Bible.  Its  classic  form  is  in  John 
3:16.  The  steps  God  took  to  reconcile  the  world  to  himself 

6  Varieties  of  Religious  Experience  (New  York:  Longmans,  Green,  1902), 
pages  46,  47.  Reprinted  by  permission  of  Paul  R.  Reynolds  &  Son,  599  Fifth 
Avenue,  New  York   17. 

6  R.  H.  Strachan,  The  Second  Epistle  of  Paul  to  the  Corinthians  (London: 
Hodder  and  Stoughton,   1935),  page   117. 


Greater  Love  Hath  No  Man  93 

provide  the  glory  and  grandeur  of  the  gospel.  "In  this  is 
love,  not  that  we  loved  God  but  that  he  loved  us  and  sent 
his  Son  to  be  the  expiation  for  our  sins"  (1  John  4:10). 
"But  God  shows  his  love  for  us  in  that  while  we  were  yet 
sinners  Christ  died  for  us"   (Romans  5:8). 

A  third  effect  of  sin  on  God  is  a  compound  of  the 
other  two.  His  hatred  of  sin  and  his  love  for  the  sinner 
produce  tension  and  suffering  in  the  heart  of  God.  There 
are  many  theories  offered  as  to  why  suffering  is  necessary  in 
redemption.  But  we  can  go  behind  both  redemption  and 
suffering  and  find  that  they  grow  out  of  the  dual  effect 
of  sin  on  the  heart  of  God.  He  is  holy  and  moves  in  wrath 
against  sin.  He  is  also  loving  and  cannot  give  the  sinner 
up.  This  tension  and  contradiction  are  absorbed  in  God's 
suffering  love. 

Suffering  Makes  Forgiveness  Redemptive 

How  does  forgiveness  overcome  these  effects  of  sin? 
Against  this  background  of  the  effects  of  sin  in  man  and 
in  God  it  can  be  discerned  that  forgiveness  is  redemptive 
only  as  it  stems  from  such  suffering  love.  The  problem 
of  guilt  is  thus  met.  The  conscience  of  the  sinner  cannot 
be  satisfied  merely  by  being  forgiven  out  of  hand.  Mere 
overlooking  of  sin  may  diminish  the  alienation  somewhat 
but  in  our  heart  of  hearts  we  feel  the  need  of  some  deep 
expiation.  We  feel  that  the  sin  deserves  punishment  and 
that  it  cannot  be  easily  condoned.  Suffering,  however, 
takes  the  full  measure  of  our  sin.  It  reckons  with  the 
seriousness  of  our  offense.  Suffering  thus  deals  with  the 
problem  of  guilt  by  the  fact  that  our  sins  have  been  borne. 
They  are  absorbed  in  God's  anguish  and  therefore  not 
condoned  or  disregarded. 

This  is  where  we  find  the  relevance  of  such  words  as 
expiation,  propitiation,  and  atonement.   The  fact  that  we 


94  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

are  unable  to  make  atonement  adequately  for  ourselves  and 
that  it  is  done  for  us  by  another  makes  it  essentially 
substitutionary.  Since  God  in  Christ  has  borne  the  burden 
of  our  sins  in  suffering,  our  consciences  are  satisfied  and 
cleansed,  for  the  true  measure  of  our  sin  has  been  taken 
and  the  guilt  has  been  dealt  with.  'Tor  if  the  sprinkling 
of  defiled  persons  with  the  blood  of  goats  and  bulls  and 
with  the  ashes  of  a  heifer  sanctifies  for  the  purification  of 
the  flesh,  how  much  more  shall  the  blood  of  Christ,  who 
through  the  eternal  Spirit  offered  himself  without  blemish 
to  God,  purify  your  conscience  from  dead  works  to  serve 
the  living  God"   (Hebrews  9:13,  14). 

The  problem  of  alienation  is  also  dealt  with.  Our 
sin  has  been  borne  in  suffering  and  we  have  been  forgiven 
out  of  a  heart  of  love.  This  free  offer  of  costly  forgiveness 
actually  effects  the  reconciliation  between  the  estranged 
sinner  and  God.  We  have  been  accepted  by  the  very  One 
from  whom  we  have  been  estranged  and  whose  presence 
we  had  been  evading  at  the  same  time  we  had  longed  for 
it.  This  offering  of  forgiveness  is  compounded  of  the 
wrath  God  has  for  our  sin  and  the  love  he  has  for  us. 
Because  he  takes  the  sin  seriously  and  bears  it  in  suffering, 
the  guilt  is  overcome.  Because  he  suffered  for  us  and 
offers  forgiveness  freely,  the  alienation  is  overcome. 

This  removal  of  the  guilt  and  the  estrangement  by 
forgiveness  out  of  suffering  goes  far  then  toward  over- 
coming the  impotence  caused  by  sin.  Our  inhibitions 
have  been  removed.  Our  contradictions  have  been 
resolved.  Our  gratitude  has  been  evoked.  A  new  sense 
of  worth  has  been  bestowed  on  us.  No  motivation  on  earth 
is  greater  than  that  of  forgiveness  out  of  a  heart  of  suffering 
love.  "Her  sins,  which  are  many,  are  forgiven,  for  she 
loved  much;  but  he  who  is  forgiven  little,  loves  little" 
(Luke  7:47). 


Greater  Love  Hath  No  Man  95 

The  Cross  and  God's  Forgiveness 

Let  us  now  consider  the  place  of  the  cross  of  Christ 
on  Calvary  in  the  forgiveness  of  our  sins.  We  have  been 
speaking  in  general  terms  of  the  relation  between  sinners 
and  the  redeeming  love  of  God.  How  shall  we  relate  this 
to  the  specific  acts  of  Christ  from  which  we  gain  our  view 
of  God? 

First,  we  can  say  that  God  as  revealed  in  Christ  always 
suffers  in  the  presence  of  sin.  This  is  because  his 
righteousness  and  his  love  are  both  eternal.  Whenever 
sin  occurs  or  wherever  it  exists,  there  is  a  divine  reaction 
in  the  heart  of  God.  This  is  the  meaning  of  the  idea  that 
the  Lamb  has  been  foreknown  and  slain  from  the  founda- 
tion of  the  world  (1  Peter  1:20;  Revelation  13:8).  This  is 
the  meaning  also  of  the  idea  that  men  "crucify  the  Son  of 
God  on  their  own  account  and  hold  him  up  to  contempt' ' 
(Hebrews  6:6). 

In  the  second  place,  we  can  regard  Calvary  as  the 
expression  of  this  eternal  attitude  of  God  by  the  enactment 
of  a  redeeming  deed  in  time.  This  deed  of  God  in  Christ 
goes  beyond  the  general  attitude  and  readiness  of  God 
just  as  any  deed  in  time  is  a  creative  step  beyond  the 
intention  which  gave  it  birth.  Peter  speaks  of  Christ  who 
"was  destined  before  the  foundation  of  the  world  but 
was  made  manifest  at  the  end  of  the  times  for  your  sake" 
(1  Peter  1:20).  This  act  on  Calvary  also  takes  on  a  finished 
and  final  character.  It  is  finished  and  final  as  a  revelation 
of  the  eternal  heart  of  God.  We  would  know  little  of 
God's  eternal  nature  were  it  not  for  this  act.  It  is  finished 
and  final  also  as  a  deed  done  for  our  redemption.  This 
is  the  basis  of  the  "onceness"  and  finality  of  the  atonement. 

The  Scriptures  are  clear  on  regarding  the  event  of 
Christ  as  the  center  of  history,  giving  point  to  all  that 
went  before  and  to  all  that  follows  after.    "The  death  he 


96  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

died  he  died  to  sin,  once  for  all"  (Romans  6:10).  "But 
as  it  is,  he  has  appeared  once  for  all  at  the  end  of  the  age 
to  put  away  sin  by  the  sacrifice  of  himself"  (Hebrews 
9:26).  Calvary  is  thus  to  be  regarded  as  more  than  a  token 
or  sample  of  God's  general  attitude.  It  is  one  climaxing 
forth-putting  of  God's  energy  to  effect  the  forgiveness  of 
our  sins.  It  is  the  adequate  event  already  enacted  which 
divides  the  chronological  calendar  between  B.C.  and  a.d. 
and  the  moral  calendar  between  the  Law  and  the  gospel. 

Objective  and  Subjective  Atonement 

It  is  important,  however,  to  lay  stress  on  both  the 
objective  and  the  subjective  aspects  of  the  atonement.  The 
forgiveness  of  sins  is  made  possible  by  what  has  already 
been  done  objectively.  It  is  effective  in  the  individual's 
salvation  by  what  is  brought  about  in  his  own  subjective 
experience. 

The  objective  theories  are  many  and  ancient.  The 
ransom  theory  of  Irenaeus,  the  satisfaction  theory  of 
Anselm,  the  penal  satisfaction  theory  of  the  reformers,  the 
Christus  Victor  theory  recently  made  famous  by  Bishop 
Aulen,  the  blood-sacrifice  theory  which  much  popular 
preaching  elaborates  from  the  Epistle  to  the  Hebrews — all 
of  these  lay  stress  on  the  finished  work  of  Christ  and  on 
its  substitutionary  nature.  They  confront  the  sinner  with 
something  which  has  been  done  in  order  to  relieve  him  of 
the  burden  of  guilt  and  to  overcome  his  estrangement 
and  impotence.  He  is  offered  free  forgiveness  for  his  sins 
as  he  is  met  by  the  pursuant  love  of  God.  It  is  the  power 
of  the  gospel  that  all  this  can  be  offered  as  finished  and 
adequate  and  free.  Another,  the  matchless  Son  of  God,  has 
already  overcome  evil  and  given  his  own  life  as  atonement 
for  man's  sins.  There  is  therefore  a  cure  for  sin  and  for 
its  effects  of  guilt  and  alienation  and  impotence. 


Greater  Love  Hath  No  Man  97 

One  can  liken  this  to  a  ranger's  comment  in  Rocky 
Mountain  National  Park.  He  said  that  if  the  average 
temperature  there  were  lowered  by  a  few  degrees,  more 
snow  and  ice  would  accumulate  in  winter  than  would  melt 
in  the  summer.  Over  the  years  the  park  would  be  covered 
by  an  ice  sheet  and  life  would  be  untenable.  No  matter 
how  hard  the  struggle,  trees  and  animals  would  be  doomed. 
But  by  the  lifting  of  the  average  temperature  a  few  degrees 
to  where  it  is  now,  more  ice  and  snow  could  be  melted  in 
summer  than  actually  accumulates  in  winter.  Life  is 
tenable  and  trees  cover  the  hills  while  animals  and  birds 
live  in  the  valleys.  The  moral  climate  of  the  universe  was 
changed  at  Calvary.  This  is  the  truth  set  forth  in  the 
objective  theories. 

But  this  fact  is  not  the  total  picture.  Forgiveness  may 
be  offered  freely  but  it  is  not  complete  unless  it  is  accepted 
as  well  as  offered.  Some  subjective  change  must  be  under- 
gone in  the  sinner's  life  before  the  transaction  can  be 
completed.  This  truth  is  the  concern  of  the  subjective 
theories.  Forgiveness  is  thus  effected  by  the  impression 
made  by  Christ's  death  upon  us.  It  must  arouse  us  to 
repentance  and  to  faith  so  that  our  salvation  may  occur. 
It  must  melt  us  down  in  sorrow  and  lift  us  up  in  hope.  It 
must  quicken  within  us  the  readiness  to  forgive  our 
fellows.  Then  and  only  then  will  our  heavenly  Father 
forgive  us.  "Christ  also  suffered  for  you,  leaving  you  an 
example,  that  you  should  follow  in  his  steps"  (1  Peter 
2:21).  This  explains  the  power  of  the  gospel  as  well  as 
the  seeming  impotence  of  the  gospel.  The  great  Redeemer 
stands  in  radiance  and  love  outside  the  door,  knocking 
and  awaiting  our  response  and  welcome  before  the  great 
feast  begins. 

H.  R.  Mackintosh,  in  one  of  his  sermons,  puts  his 
finger  on  the  sore  spot: 


98  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

I  feel  that  the  great  reason  why  we  fail  to  understand  Calvary 
is  not  merely  that  we  are  not  profound  enough.  .  .  .  We  are  such 
strangers  to  sacrifice  that  God's  sacrifice  leaves  us  bewildered.  .  .  .  We 
have  never  forgiven  anybody  at  such  cost  as  His.  We  have  never 
taken  the  initiative  in  putting  a  quarrel  right  with  His  kind  of 
unreserved  willingness  to  suffer.  It  is  our  unlikeness  to  God  that 
hangs  on  us  as  an  obscuring  screen  impeding  our  view,  and  we 
see  the  atonement  so  often  through  the  frosted  glass  of  our 
lovelessness. 

Hard  as  this  appears  to  be,  it  is  still  the  glory  of  the 
gospel  that  such  reluctance  and  such  obtuseness  are  over- 
come by  the  love  of  God  and  expressed  in  the  death  of 
Christ.  All  theories  and  metaphors  of  the  atonement  can 
be  summed  in  Paul's  simple  but  overwhelming  phrase 
about  "the  Son  of  God  who  loved  me  and  gave  himself 
for  me"  (Galatians  2:20).  An  unidentified  modern  poet 
has  put  this  with  equally  simple  beauty:7 

Under  an  eastern  sky, 
Amid  a  rabble  cry, 
A  man  went   forth   to   die — 
For  me. 

Thorn-crowned   his   blessed   head, 
Blood-stained   his   every   tread, 
Cross-laden    on    he    sped — 
For  me. 

Pierced  were  his  hands  and  feet, 
Three  hours  o'er  him  did  beat 
Fierce   rays   of   noontide   heat — 
For  me. 


7  Thomas  Curtis  Clark  (ed.),  Today  Is  Mine  (New  York:    Harper),  page  188. 


The  Love  of  God 


Logically  and  historically  the  love  of  God  is  prior 
to  the  grace  of  Christ.  All  that  Christ  was  and  did  is 
regarded  as  stemming  from  God's  own  love.  "For  God 
so  loved  the  world  that  he  gave  his  only  Son"  (John  3:16). 
"But  God  shows  his  love  for  us  in  that  while  we  were  yet 
sinners  Christ  died  for  us"  (Romans  5:8).  "For  it  is  the 
God  who  said,  'Let  light  shine  out  of  darkness,'  who  has 
shone  in  our  hearts  to  give  the  light  of  the  knowledge  of 
the  glory  of  God  in  the  face  of  Christ"  (2  Corinthians  4:6). 
But  as  Christians  we  know  the  love  of  God  through  our 
experience  of  the  grace  of  Christ.  Our  belief  in  God's 
love  is  no  vague  surmise  but  solid  inference  from  Christ's 
work  of  revelation  and  of  redemption.  It  is  fitting,  there- 
fore, to  consider  more  fully  the  Christian  belief  in  God 
after  we  have  already  explored  the  meaning  of  belief  in 
Christ  and  his  grace.  Many  are  the  facets  of  Christ's  life 
and  work  and  they  come  to  focus  in  his  grace.  Many  are 
the  aspects  of  God's  nature  and  purpose  and  they  come 
to  focus  in  his  love. 


CHAPTER  SIX 


Our  Father  Who  Art  in  Heaven 


Belief  in  god  is  the  basis  of  all  religion,  a  sense  of 
awe  and  a  feeling  of  dependence  toward  a  power  beyond 
themselves  is  an  almost  universal  mood  of  men.  Men 
have  within  them  an  awareness  that  their  weal  and  woe  are 
ultimately  in  hands  other  than  their  own.  There  are  few 
atheists  in  the  world.  Even  in  our  own  secular  era,  men 
who  seem  to  live  their  lives  apart  from  God  often  get 
caught  up  into  fanaticism  toward  some  other  object.  The 
false  gods  of  pleasure,  financial  success,  racial  pride,  and 
superpatriotism  rush  into  the  vacuum  left  by  disbelief 
in  the  true  God.  When  the  unclean  spirit  returns  to  find 
the  empty  house  swept  and  put  in  order  he  goes  and 
brings  seven  other  spirits  more  evil  than  himself,  and  they 
enter  and  dwell  there.  "And  the  last  state  of  that  man 
becomes  worse  than  the  first"   (Luke  11:24-26). 

The  Bible  gives  little  attention  to  arguments  for  God's 
existence.  For  the  most  part  it  is  taken  for  granted  or 
stated  simply:  "For  whoever  would  draw  near  to  God 
must  believe  that  he  exists  and  that  he  rewards  those  who 
seek  him"  (Hebrews  11:6).  The  Bible  is  far  more  con- 
cerned about  the  nature  and  the  character  which  men 
believe  God  to  have.  It  is  not  enough  to  have  a  belief 
in  a  god.  It  is  a  matter  of  life  and  death  for  men  to  come 
to  true  knowledge  of  the  true  and  living  God.  Neither 
in  Biblical  times  nor  now  is  it  enough  for  the  arguments 
of  philosophy  to  demonstrate  God's  existence  in  a  general 
way.    It  is  all-important  to  know  what  kind  of  a  being 


102  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

God  is.  Men  are  called  away  from  false  gods  to  the  true 
and  living  God.  Worship  of  anything  less  than  the  true 
and  living  God  is  idolatry;  and  idolatry  is  a  grievous 
business.  At  the  best  it  is  a  witness  to  a  hunger  it  can 
never  satisfy. 

The  Nature  of  God  As  Father 

What  then  is  God  like?  The  characteristic  way  the 
Christian  conceives  of  him  is  as  Father — "our  Father  who 
art  in  heaven."  God,  as  Father,  was  foreshadowed  in  the 
Old  Testament.  "As  a  father  pities  his  children,  so  the 
Lord  pities  those  who  fear  him"  (Psalm  103:13).  "For 
I  am  a  father  to  Israel,  and  Ephraim  is  my  first-born" 
(Jeremiah  31:9). 

It  cannot  be  said,  therefore,  that  this  is  a  completely 
new  concept  in  the  New  Testament.  But  it  is  a  dominant 
note  there.  Jesus  Christ  took  this  with  a  new  seriousness 
and  as  the  distinct  characteristic  of  God.  It  was  the  central 
focus  of  his  prayer  life.  In  joy  he  prayed,  "I  thank  thee, 
Father,  .  .  .  that  thou  hast  hidden  these  things  from  the 
wise  and  understanding  and  revealed  them  to  babes" 
(Matthew  11:25).  In  sorrow  he  prayed,  "Abba,  Father, 
all  things  are  possible  to  thee;  remove  this  cup  from  me; 
yet  not  what  I  will,  but  what  thou  wilt"  (Mark  14:36).  His 
whole  ministry  was  based  on  the  Father's  authority  (John 
5:19;  13:1).  He  sent  out  his  disciples  likewise  under  the 
Father's  authority  (Matthew  28:19).  A  specific  part  of  his 
work  was  to  show  men  what  God  the  Father  is  like.  "He 
who  has  seen  me,"  he  declared  to  his  disciples,  "has  seen 
the  Father"  (John  14:9). 

There  are  other  Biblical  terms  for  God,  like  Shepherd, 
King,  the  Most  High,  Ancient  of  Days,  and  Lord  of 
heaven  and  earth.  But  for  Christians  all  ways  of  thinking 
about  God  find  their  center  and  norm  in  the  concept  of 


Our  Father  Who  Art  in  Heaven  103 

Father.  This  concept  of  Father,  moreover,  is  filled  out 
with  rich  meaning  by  the  revealing  work  of  Christ.  God 
is  no  longer  an  unknown  God.  All  the  elusive  attributes 
like  inscrutability  or  ineffability  have  been  broken  through 
as  we  see  the  glory  of  God  in  the  face  of  Christ.  No  better 
name  for  God  can  be  found  in  all  the  world  than  "Father 
of  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ' '  (Romans  15:6;  2  Corinthians 
1:3;  Ephesians  1:3;  1  Peter  1:3).  No  wonder  then  that  the 
phrase,  "the  love  of  God,"  in  the  apostolic  benediction 
is  often  used  in  the  fuller  form,  "the  love  of  God  the 
Father."  This  shall  be  the  focus  of  our  thought  as  we 
consider  the  Christian  doctrine  of  God  in  this  and  the 
next  chapters. 

God  Is  a  Personal  Being 

Thinking  of  God  as  Father  means  that  he  is  a  personal 
being.  It  is  a  common  feature  of  all  simpler  religions  of 
the  world  to  think  personally  and  intimately  of  their  gods. 
Nature  powers  like  the  sun,  the  winds,  and  the  storm  are 
regarded  as  personal  powers.  The  same  is  true  of  other 
elements  of  experience  like  love,  justice,  fertility,  and 
the  tribe.  In  the  Bible  these  are  all  regarded  as  idols,  as 
"gods  many  and  lords  many,"  and  as  false  objects  of 
worship.  But  the  same  intensely  personal  quality  attaches 
to  the  true  God.  He  walks  in  Eden  in  the  cool  of  the  day 
(Genesis  3:8).  He  is  a  friend  to  Abraham  (2  Chronicles 
20:7).  Moses  talks  to  him  face  to  face  (Exodus  33:11). 
God  is  jealous  (Joel  2:18)  and  angry  (Numbers  25:4)  and 
repents  that  he  has  made  man  (Genesis  6:7).  As  against 
this  anthropomorphism,  or  thinking  of  God  in  the  form 
of  man,  there  are  other  instances  where  he  is  conceived 
of  in  less  intimate  and  more  majestic  terms  like  Most  High 
(Numbers  24:16;  Luke  1:35)  and  Almighty   (Ruth  1:20). 

Such  Biblical  stress  on  attributes  never  goes  as  far 


104  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

from  personal  terms  as  philosophical  thought  does. 
Philosophers  ancient  and  modern  tend  to  think  of  God  in 
abstract  terms  like  absolute  idea,  unmoved  mover,  ground 
of  being,  principle  of  concretion,  or  creative  force.  In  parts 
of  the  Bible  God  is  given  a  persona]  name,  Jehovah.1  He 
is  often  given  the  title  Lord.  With  similar  frequency  he 
is  called  what  he  definitely  is,  God.  But  all  of  these  ways 
of  referring  to  him  retain  a  vivid  and  strong  personal 
quality.  When  Jesus  told  the  Samaritan  woman  that  "God 
is  spirit"  (John  4:24)  this  was  not  to  depersonalize  him 
but  to  set  forth  a  view  of  personal  being  which  is  not 
restricted  to  a  Samaritan  mountain  as  such  or  to  Jerusalem 
as  such.  A  widely  known  definition  of  God  is  that  of 
William  Newton  Clarke:  "God  is  the  personal  spirit, 
perfectly  good,  who,  in  holy  love,  creates,  sustains  and 
orders  all."2  In  this  God's  nature  is  distinctly  personal. 
But  this  does  not  mean  that  God  has  red  hair  or  a  physical 
body.  It  centers  attention  upon  the  spiritual,  or  non- 
physical,  aspects  of  personal  being.  It  refers  to  self-aware- 
ness, moral  character,  freely  chosen  intentions,  just 
judgments,  gracious  love,  capacity  for  communication 
and  fellowship.  It  refers  to  such  familiar  personal 
experiences  as  thinking,  feeling,  and  willing. 

In  our  own  time  some  people  have  difficulty  in 
thinking  of  God  as  personal.  Perhaps  as  children  they 
thought  of  him  as  a  benign  and  white-bearded  patriarch 
sitting  on  a  chair  about  a  half-mile  up  in  the  sky.    Then 

1  The  term  Jehovah  is  usually  regarded  as  a  mixed  word.  It  is  made  up 
primarily  of  the  four  Hebrew  consonants  JHVH.  In  the  early  Hebrew  texts  no 
vowels  were  included.  Later  the  name  was  regarded  as  too  sacred  to  be 
pronounced  and  the  readers  substituted  the  title  Lord  or  Adonai.  When  vowels 
were  added  to  the  text  underneath  the  consonants,  they  added  the  vowels  of 
the  word  Adonai  to  the  consonants  JHVH.  It  was  still  read  as  Lord  or  Adonai. 
The  American  Version's  attempt  in  1901  to  substitute  Jehovah  has  been  shortlived 
and  the  title  Lord  has  been  restored  in  the  Revised  Standard  Version. 

2  William  Newton  Clarke,  An  Outline  of  Christian  Theology  (New  York: 
Scribners,   1898),  page  66. 


Our  Father  Who  Art  in  Heaven  105 

they  got  a  picture  of  the  vastness  of  the  starry  heavens 
which  shattered  their  childhood  picture  of  God.  They 
need  to  let  their  thinking  about  God  grow  as  their 
astronomy  has  grown.  They  should  read  the  Bible  afresh 
to  see  God  as  one  "who  has  measured  the  waters  in  the 
hollow  of  his  hand  and  marked  off  the  heaven  with  a  span" 
(Isaiah  40:12).  They  should  also  come  to  think  of  him 
as  one  not  bound  by  space — as  a  living  mind  compre- 
hending, choosing,  creating,  purposing,  working  toward 
an  end.  While  the  world  is  almost  infinitely  larger  than 
a  person,  from  a  spatial  point  of  view,  yet  it  does  not 
comprehend  the  person;  the  person  comprehends  and  is 
aware  of  the  world. 

Others  find  it  hard  to  think  of  God  as  personal  because 
they  regard  personality  as  finite  and  limited,  whereas  God 
is  infinite  and  unlimited.  Some  speak  of  the  personality- 
producing  forces  of  community  life  or  of  a  personality- 
producing  matrix.  God  is  of  course  free  from  the  imper- 
fections found  in  human  nature.  In  many  ways  he  is 
"superpersonal."  "For  as  the  heavens  are  higher  than 
the  earth,  so  are  my  ways  higher  than  your  ways,  and  my 
thoughts  than  your  thoughts"   (Isaiah  55:9). 

To  think  of  God  as  less  than  personal  is  an  unwar- 
ranted type  of  reductionism — we  cannot  fully  explain 
higher  realities  in  terms  of  lower  realities.  Speaking  of 
him  as  personal  guards  against  the  tendency  to  think  of 
God  as  some  object  like  a  tree  or  a  river  or  an  ocean,  or 
to  think  of  him  as  an  abstract  idea  or  force  of  nature.  It 
protects  man's  fellowship  with  God  and  preserves  the 
whole  rich  range  of  meaning  we  find  in  the  familiar  words 
of  the  Lord's  Prayer,  "our  Father  who  art  in  heaven." 
It  is  the  basis  of  God's  qualities  of  righteousness  and 
love.  It  is  the  quality  of  God  which  marks  his  image 
in  man.  It  is  the  sad  measure  of  sin  as  guilt  and  alienation. 


106  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

It   is  the  glad  feature   of  salvation   as   forgiveness  and 
reconciliation.   God's  world  is  the  world  of  persons. 

God  Has  Authority  and  Power 

Thinking  of  God  as  Father  also  implies  that  he  has 
authority  and  power  over  the  world  and  over  men.  This 
is  set  forth  clearly  in  the  Lord's  Prayer:  "Our  Father 
who  art  in  heaven.  .  .  .  Thy  kingdom  come."  It  is 
indicated  also  in  the  liturgical  clause,  "I  believe  in  God 
the  Father  Almighty,"  and  in  the  recurrent  attribute, 
omnipotence.  God  is  the  kind  of  father  who  also  exercises 
kingly  rule.  In  the  Old  Testament,  God  is  regarded  as 
the  true  ruler  over  Israel.  There  was  reluctance  to 
establish  a  human  kingship  lest  the  sovereignty  of  God  be 
overlooked.  At  the  peak  of  the  life  of  Israel's  kingdom, 
the  king  himself  was  at  best  the  anointed  representative  of 
God.  "Who  is  this  King  of  glory?  The  Lord  of  hosts,  he 
is  the  King  of  glory"  (Psalm  24:10).  Sometimes  this 
authority  of  God  is  overlooked  in  current  thought  about 
him.  It  is  suggested,  for  example,  that  we  should  no  longer 
speak  of  the  kingdom  of  God  but  that  we  should  speak 
of  the  democracy  of  God.  This  is  to  overlook,  however, 
the  whole  range  of  God's  sovereignty  wherein  he  is  quite 
prior  to  his  world  and  quite  above  the  men  who  are  in  it. 

In  our  idea  of  God  as  Father  we  may  forget  the 
authority  which  the  father  exercised  in  the  family  life 
of  Bible  times.  Often  in  the  modern  home  the  father 
is  absent  for  days  and  the  control  of  the  home  falls  upon 
the  mother.  Often,  in  the  name  of  freedom,  the  children 
are  left  entirely  to  their  own  independent  choices.  The 
father  is  a  sort  of  benign  resource  for  guaranteeing  the 
fulfillment  of  the  children's  desires.  If  he  seeks  to  exercise 
control  in  the  life  of  the  home,  he  is  regarded  as 
authoritarian   and   arbitrary. 


Our  Father  Who  Art  in  Heaven  107 

No  doubt  this  is  a  caricature.  No  doubt  the  father's 
authority  has  sometimes  been  abused  and  needs  correction 
in  the  name  of  Christian  love.  No  doubt  the  roles  of  ideal 
family  life  may  change  from  age  to  age.  But  Jesus  spoke 
of  God  as  Father  at  a  time  when  the  father  of  the  home 
was  an  old-fashioned  Jewish  "papa."  It  has  been  rightly 
said,  "God  is  our  Father,  not  our  Grandmother/'  This 
mode  of  thought  about  God  is  not  to  picture  him  as  harsh 
or  domineering  or  vengeful,  but  as  fulfilling  the  responsi- 
bility of  fatherhood  in  rich  and  infinite  love.  "God  is 
treating  you  as  sons;  for  what  son  is  there  whom  his  father 
does  not  discipline?  If  you  are  left  without  discipline,  in 
which  all  have  participated,  then  you  are  illegitimate 
children  and  not  sons"   (Hebrews  12:7,  8). 

God  and  the  World 

Thinking  of  God  as  Father  is  in  harmony  with  the 
Biblical  doctrine  of  creation.  This  is  stated  very  simply  in 
the  first  verse  of  the  Bible.  "In  the  beginning  God  created 
the  heavens  and  the  earth"   (Genesis  1:1). 

The  Principle  of  Explanation 

According  to  this  belief,  God  is  the  first  cause  of  the 
created  world.  He  is  the  ultimate  principle  of  explanation. 
In  thinking  of  the  origin  of  the  world  the  human  mind 
starts  on  a  long  and  tantalizing  journey.  Back  of  each 
phenomenon  of  nature  may  be  found  a  previous  factor 
which  was  its  cause.  Back  of  that  was  another  factor  which 
caused  it.  This  is  the  endless  journey  of  "infinite  regress" 
which  keeps  the  philosophers  awake  at  night.  It  is  like  a 
Royal  Baking  Powder  tin  which  has  on  its  label  a  picture 
of  a  Royal  Baking  Powder  tin  which  has  on  its  label.  .  .  . 
It  is  not  to  stifle  endless  inquiry  that  Christian  belief 
accepts  God  as  the  ultimate  principle  of  explanation.    It 


108  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

is  a  belief,  however,  which  gives  the  mind  a  place  to  start 
and  a  place  to  stand. 

The  Bible  reflects  a  few  assumptions  about  the  process 
of  creation.  It  was  a  process  related  to  time.3  It  was  a 
process  of  several  successive  steps.  It  was  an  organic  proc- 
ess with  each  step  related  to  the  whole.  It  was  a 
process  which  found  its  climax  in  the  creation  of  man.  It 
was  an  act  and  process  of  deliberated  intention.  It  was 
an  act  and  process  pronounced  good. 

It  is  the  concern  of  natural  science  to  make  inquiries 
into  natural  processes  and  to  formulate  theories  as  to  the 
steps  in  nature's  development.  These  are,  in  the  nature 
of  the  case,  descriptive  inquiries  which  still  leave  the 
question  of  origin  unanswered.  Whether  creation  was  by 
immediate  and  single  act  or  by  successive  developmental 
steps  is  a  question  secondary  to  the  principle  of  ultimate 
explanation. 

Here  is  where  the  Christian  belief  in  God  centers  its 
concern.  The  belief  in  God  as  creator  is  a  profound  and 
persuasive  answer  to  this  ultimate  question.  God  is 
regarded  as  self-existent.  The  whole  world  of  nature  and 
the  life  of  man  are  created  and  derived  existences.  The 
Creator  has  by  definition  an  undenied  priority  and  the 
world  and  man  are  dependent  creatures.  Perhaps  we 
would  be  more  exact  theologically  and  linguistically  if  we 
say  they  are  dependent  from  God  instead  of  saying  they 
are  dependent  upon  God.  For  the  word  depend  means  to 
hang  from.  This  simple  change  of  preposition  goes  far  to 
produce   within    us   a   true    discernment   of   God's   self- 


3  Time  for  God,  however,  is  not  to  be  precisely  reckoned  with  time  as  man 
knows  it.  "A  thousand  years  as  one  day"  (2  Peter  3:8)  is  not  a  formula  for 
exact  calculation  but  an  indication  that  time  for  God  is  not  commensurable 
with  time  for  man. 


Our  Father  Who  Art  in  Heaven  109 

existence  and  of  the  derived  character  of  the  world  and  the 
life  of  man/ 

The  Living  Source  of  Power  and  Order 

God  is  not  only  the  creator  of  the  world  as  its 
ground  of  origin;  he  is  also  the  sustainer  of  it  as  its 
constant  ground  of  administration — ' 'upholding  the  uni- 
verse by  his  word  of  power"  (Hebrews  1:3).  According  to 
this  belief,  God  is  not  an  absentee  landlord  who  set  things 
going  in  the  beginning  and  then  left  them  to  run  on  their 
own.  He  is  rather  the  living  God  who  is  constantly  at  work 
in  the  world.  "My  Father  is  working  still,  and  I  am 
working,"  said  Jesus  (John  5:17).  Paul  affirms  this  also. 
"We  know  that  in  everything  God  works  for  good"  (Rom- 
ans 8:28). 

This  belief  is  against  the  view  known  as  deism,  which 
flourished  in  the  eighteenth  century.  By  that  view  God's 
relation  to  the  world  was  limited  to  an  initial  act  of 
creation  and  a  final  act  of  judgment.  Meanwhile  he 
remains  wholly  transcendent,  being  neither  immanent  in 
nature  nor  revealed  in  history  or  religious  experience.5 
This  deistic  view  has  a  certain  majesty  and  it  is  the 
inspiration  of  Addison's  celebrated  hymn,  The  Spacious 
Firmament  on  High.  But  the  full  meaning  of  it  is 
exhausted  in  the  final  sentence,  "The  hand  that  made  us 
is  divine."  This  omits  the  robust  and  continuing  concern 
of  God  as  Father  for  the  world  he  created.  It  omits  the 
Biblical    awareness    of    God's    sustained    and    sustaining 


*A  young  man,  Lee  Chrisman,  from  San  Diego,  reported  to  the  writer 
that  he  was  once  an  eyewitness  to  the  departure  of  an  armed  forces  dirigible. 
Of  the  hundred  men  who  were  holding  it  by  ropes,  two  failed  to  let  go  at 
the  given  signal.  One  of  them  let  go  too  late  and  fell  to  his  death  a  short 
distance  from  the  reporter.  The  other  one  hung  on  for  "dear  life"  for  what 
seemed  like  an  hour,  until  he  was  rescued.  Such  an  experience  would  help 
impress  anyone  with  what  it  means  to  "depend  from." 

6  See  deism  in  Webster's  Dictionary. 


110  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

providence.  God's  more  direct  administration  of  the 
world  is  summed  up  in  Clarke's  definition  by  the 
phrase,  "sustains  and  orders  all." 

In  modern  days  we  find  a  tendency  to  reduce  God's 
control  of  the  world  by  the  concept  of  nature's  laws.  The 
world's  rhythms  of  movement  are  noted  and  formulated 
as  laws  of  nature.  It  is  assumed  that  the  law  of  gravity 
does  certain  things  to  planets  and  to  teardrops.  Such 
"laws,"  however,  are  only  descriptions  of  nature's  pre- 
dictable and  regular  behavior.  They  do  not  explain  this 
behavior.  It  has  been  well  said,  "Boyle's  law  does  not 
exert  pressure  on  gases.  It  only  describes  such  pressure." 
In  thinking  of  "laws"  our  minds  play  tricks  on  us.  To 
law  in  the  legislative  sense  we  sneak  in  the  meaning  of  law 
in  the  executive  sense.  Many  people  learn  this  distinction 
when  they  disregard  the  law  which  says,  "Speed  limit  30 
m.p.h.,"  only  to  be  taken  under  custody  by  the  law  in  a 
patrol  car.  The  laws  of  nature  are  the  constancy  of  God. 
They  are  expressions  of  his  integrity  and  dependability 
as  a  Father.  From  both  a  philosophical  and  a  religious 
point  of  view  it  is  important  to  remember  that  God 
"sustains  and  orders"  the  world. 

Miracles  Are  God's  Extraordinary  Acts 

This  provides  a  basis  for  a  better  understanding  of 
the  matter  of  miracles.  For  many  people  miracles  are  not 
mere  marvels.  They  are  a  problem.  If  we  think  of  nature's 
laws  as  self-ordering  regularities,  then  it  is  almost,  if  not 
altogether,  unthinkable  that  there  should  be  an  inter- 
ruption in  that  orderly  and  undeviating  process  by  a 
power  from  the  "outside."  If  any  extraordinary  event 
does  occur,  it  is  assumed  that  there  is  some  hidden  or 
higher  "law"  which  would  explain  the  novel  happening. 

Such  an  attitude  is  a  strange  blend  of  skepticism  and 


Our  Father  Who  Art  in  Heaven  111 

faith.  There  is  skepticism  that  denies  the  possibility  of 
novel  occurrences.  There  is  faith  that  everything  happens 
according  to  law  and  that  we  have  only  to  explore 
further  to  discover  the  law.  Now,  to  be  sure,  many  so- 
called  wonders  and  miracles  are  later  discovered  to  have 
occurred  according  to  "natural"  and  'regular"  causes. 
Many  primitive  superstitions  about  disease  and  weather 
have  given  way  to  clear  understanding  of  nature's  ways  of 
working.  Moreover,  scientific  research  and  procedures 
have  had  to  go  forward  against  opposition  from  prejudiced 
modes  of  thought.  Magic  and  obscurantism  have  resisted 
experiment  and  exploration  and  yet  they  have  had  to 
give  way  to  scientific  discovery  and  understanding.  Anyone 
living  among  primitive  people  soon  learns  how  dangerous 
and  frightening  the  world  is  with  no  conception  of  the 
natural  order.  The  goblins  will  get  you  even  if  you  do 
watch  out.  Everything  happens  by  miracle.  In  such  a 
world  of  caprice  it  is  a  blessing  to  think  in  terms  of  nature's 
orderliness. 

There  is  no  warrant,  however,  for  going  to  the  extreme 
of  saying  that  miracles  do  not  and  cannot  occur.  That 
is  contrary  to  the  unpredictable  sports  and  emergents 
which  do  occur.  It  is  also  unnecessary  to  regard  nature's 
laws  as  having  a  cast-iron  rigidity,  if  we  regard  them  as 
descriptions  of  God's  constancy.  Laws  are  God's  ordinary 
ways  of  working.  It  is  highly  significant  that  a  high 
percentage  of  natural  events  are  orderly  and  predictable. 
Only  so  could  there  be  intelligence  and  even  morality. 
Only  so  can  God  show  himself  as  constant  and  dependable. 
But  when  we  see  God  as  himself  the  sustainer  and 
administrator  of  the  world,  we  have  a  viewpoint  which 
gives  meaning  also  to  extraordinary  occurrences.  They 
too  can  be  seen  as  benevolent  acts  of  God  as  Father.  His 
love  is  not  bound. 


112  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

God  and  Man 

The  climax  of  God's  fatherhood  is  in  the  creation 
of  man.  According  to  Biblical  belief,  man's  appearance 
was  a  later  step  in  the  creative  acts  of  God.  Man  was 
created  in  God's  image  and  after  his  likeness.  He  was 
given  dominion  over  nature  (Genesis  1:20).  This  gives 
occasion  for  a  low  and  ordinary  view  of  man  as  well  as  for 
a  high  and  glorious  view. 

The  Low  Estate  of  Man 

Man  shares  the  common  life  of  the  rest  of  nature.  His 
body  is  composed  of  and  nurtured  by  physical  and 
chemical  elements  in  common  with  other  organic  life. 
His  biological  structure  and  functions  have  many  similari- 
ties to  the  animal  world.  Like  them  he  is  born,  grows,  eats, 
exercises,  reproduces,  struggles  against  enemies,  is  subject 
to  disease,  suffers  pain,  and  is  appointed  to  die.  He  shares 
finitude  with  all  creatures  and  lives  out  his  life  in  time 
and  space.  In  many  ways  he  appears  at  a  disadvantage  in 
the  world  of  nature.  There  are  animals  larger  and  stronger 
than  he.  Some  animals  and  trees  live  longer  than  he.  Birds 
are  able  to  fly  and  sea  creatures  are  able  to  live  in  water. 
From  a  spatial  point  of  view  he  is  almost  negligible.  It  has 
been  estimated  that  if  all  the  men  who  ever  lived  on 
earth  were  thrown  at  one  time  into  Lake  Superior  it  would 
raise  the  lake  level  only  two  fifths  of  an  inch.  By  such 
reflections  the  psalmist  asked  long  ago: 

''When  I  consider  thy  heavens,  the  work  of  thy  fingers, 
The  moon  and  the  stars,  which  thou  hast  established; 
What  is  man,  that  thou  art  mindful  of  him?"  (Psalm  8:3,  4). 

To  bring  this  mood  up  to  date  we  can  refer  to  the 
comments  Theodore  Roosevelt  and  William  Beebe  used 
to  make  to  each  other  as  they  searched  out  the 


Our  Father  Who  Art  in  Heaven  113 

spot  of  light-mist  beyond  the  lower  left-hand  corner  of  the  great 
square  of  Pegasus: 

That  is  the  Spiral  Galaxy  of  Andromeda. 
It  is  as  large  as  our  Milky  Way. 
It  is  one  of  a  hundred  million  galaxies. 
It  is  750,000  light  years  away. 

It  consists  of  one  hundred  billion  suns,  each  larger  than  our 
sun. 

After  an   interval   Colonel  Roosevelt  would  grin   and  say,   "Now 
I  think  we  are  small  enough!    Let's  go  to  bed."6 

Beyond  these  limitations  of  creatureliness  and  fini- 
tude,  there  is  the  low  estate  of  man  due  to  sin,  which  we 
shall  consider  in  the  next  chapter. 

The  Dignity  of  Man 

There  is  another  side  of  the  picture,  however,  in  that 
man  is  marked  by  grandeur  and  may  rightly  be  regarded 
as  the  climax  of  God's  creative  fatherhood.  For  one  thing, 
all  of  creation  is  regarded  by  Christian  belief  as  good,  being 
so  judged  by  God  himself.  Man  lives  in  a  body  as  do 
the  animals.  But  the  body  is  not  regarded  as  evil  or  sinful. 
Such  a  despising  of  the  body  is  due  to  Oriental  dualism  and 
is  largely  alien  to  the  Bible.  Carnality  and  the  flesh  are 
terms  not  referring  to  biological  urges  alone.  They  refer 
also  to  aspects  of  man's  higher  nature  when  they  are  out 
of  harmony  with  God,  as  in  the  case  of  idolatry,  sorcery, 
dissension,  party  spirit,  and  envy  (Galatians  5:16-21). 
Man's  body  is  the  temple  of  the  Holy  Spirit  (1  Corinthians 
6:19). 

The  high  view  of  man  is  warranted  chiefly  by  his 
being  created  in  God's  image  and  after  his  likeness.  The 
image  of  God  does  not  take  away  man's  creatureliness. 
Man  is  not  a  little  god,  but  he  has  something  in  his  nature 


6  William    Beebe    (ed.),    The   Book    of   Naturalists    (New   York:     Alfred   A. 
Knopf),  page  234. 


114  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

which  enables  him  to  participate  in  the  life  of  God. 
Some  people  regard  man's  intelligence  and  reason  as  the 
meaning  of  God's  image.  Certainly  these  are  high  endow- 
ments which  represent  a  "jump"  above  the  animal  world 
in  spite  of  similarities.  They  make  possible  language, 
philosophy,  society,  art,  and  culture  and  they  have 
importance  in  man's  religious  life.  But  we  need  to  look 
further  for  the  image  of  God. 

Some  look  for  man's  highest  gift  in  his  social  relation- 
ships— in  his  sympathy,  his  ability  to  take  the  role  of 
another  and  see  things  in  imagination  as  from  another's 
point  of  view.  This  likewise  is  a  profound  endowment 
which  is  closely  related  to  the  use  of  language  and  which 
is  important  in  all  social  living  and  religious  experience. 
But  we  need  to  look  still  further.  The  image  or  likeness 
of  God  in  man  gathers  up  all  the  resources  and  capacities 
of  man's  complex  nature.  But  it  centers  in  man's  capacity 
to  respond  to  God  and  to  participate  in  his  fellowship. 
It  refers  to  man's  capacity  to  discern  the  difference  between 
right  and  wrong  and  to  pronounce  judgments  upon  his 
behavior.  It  refers  also  to  the  claim  the  right  has  upon 
him — the  moral  obligation  to  do  it. 

D.  S.  Cairns  writes  thus  of  this  moral  imperative: 

The  moment  we  do  detect  the  Good  as  between  two  alternative 
courses  of  action,  something  else  becomes  manifest  in  it,  something 
shining  and  formidable.  It  becomes  not  simply  higher  and  finer, 
it  becomes  "imperative."  I  know  that  I  ought  to  do  it.  The  Good 
in  this  sense  is  not  simply  something  wiser,  preferable,  more 
beautiful,  more  desirable.  It  has  a  thread  of  steel  in  it,  a  quality 
of  adamant.  It  is  the  only  course  open  to  me  that  is  "right,"  and 
every  other  course  is  wrong.7 

It  Is  seen  from  this  mode  of  thinking  that  the  image 
of  God  in  man  refers  to  something  beyond  man.  It  is  thus 


TD.  S.  Cairns,  The  Riddle  of  the  World   (New  York:    Round  Table  Piesi* 
1938),  page  100. 


Our  Father  Who  Art  in  Heaven  115 

said  that  man  is  a  creature  who  has  his  center  of  gravity 
outside  of  himself.  It  is  hardly  correct,  therefore,  to 
speak  of  man  as  having  a  spark  of  divinity  within  him, 
if  that  refers  to  a  self-sufficiency  in  man's  own  nature.  It 
is  truer  to  the  Biblical  view  to  follow  Augustine's  thought: 
"Thou  hast  made  us  for  thyself,  and  our  hearts  are  restless 
until  they  repose  in  thee." 

Man's  Original  Sonship  by  Creation 

Thus  God  is  our  Father  who  is  in  heaven.  He  is  the 
Father  of  all  men  by  virtue  of  creation.  "He  made  from 
one  every  nation  of  men  to  live  on  all  the  face  of  the 
earth"  (Acts  17:26).  Men  are  therefore  brothers  to  each 
other  in  this  original  and  generic  sense.  They  are  brothers 
by  biological  kinship  from  the  day  of  their  common 
creation.  They  may  differ  widely  as  individuals  and  as 
types  but  they  bear  the  common  image  of  God  at  the  center 
of  their  nature.  No  amount  of  argument  or  quarreling 
can  "unbrother"  them.  They  contend  and  quarrel  as 
brothers  and  all  wars  are  fratricidal.  No  amount  of 
enslavement  or  of  spurious  racism  can  disclaim  this  basic 
fact.  The  human  race  is  one.  This  brotherhood  of  men 
is  based  on  the  fatherhood  of  God  as  their  common  creator. 
There  have  been  few  times  in  history  when  this  has  been 
more  vigorously  denied  than  in  our  own  day.  There  has 
never  been  a  time  when  it  is  more  important  to  affirm  it 
than  now. 

Man's  Qualitative  Sonship  by  Growth 

The  love  of  God  our  Father  is,  however,  not  only 
creative  of  life.  It  is  also  exacting  of  growth.  Creation  is 
only  the  beginning  of  man's  life  as  procreation  is  only  the 
beginning  of  a  child's  life  in  a  human  family.  Cherished 
and  precious  as  are  such  potentialities,  they  find  their 


116  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

fulfillment  only  in  the  process  of  development  and  growth. 
Full  fatherhood  and  full  sonship  are  attained  when  the 
son  shares  the  father's  aspirations,  intentions,  and  standards 
of  life;  when  the  son  responds  to  the  father's  will  and 
participates  in  the  father's  fellowship  and  in  the  life  of 
the  family.  This  kind  of  sonship  and  brotherhood  is 
qualitative,  responsible,  and  achieved.  It  is  based  upon  the 
sonship  and  brotherhood  of  creation  but  it  goes  beyond 
it.  Men  are  created  of  one  blood  "to  live  on  all  the  face 
of  the  earth"  so  that  "they  should  seek  God,  in  the  hope 
that  they  might  feel  after  him  and  find  him"  (Acts 
17:26,  27). 

The  ultimate  standard  of  a  son's  growth  and  develop- 
ment is  mature  manhood  according  "to  the  measure  of  the 
stature  of  the  fullness  of  Christ."  The  ultimate  standard 
for  the  growth  of  brotherhood  is  each  part  working 
properly,  upbuilt  in  love  until  we  "grow  up  in  every  way 
into  him  who  is  the  head,  into  Christ"  (Ephesians  4: 13-15). 
Between  that  original  sonship  and  this  brotherhood  of 
full  qualitative  response  and  participation  there  lies  the 
long  and  sad  gap  of  waywardness  and  sin.  This  will  lead 
us  to  consider  other  aspects  of  God's  loving  fatherhood 
and  other  aspects  of  man's  nature  and  condition.  It  will 
give  us  also  a  fuller  view  of  the  deep  need  for  the  redemp- 
tion which,  as  we  have  already  noted,  stems  from  the 
grace  of  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ.  In  Augustine's  succinct 
phrase,  God,  "who  made,  remade  us." 


CHAPTER  SEVEN 


The  Goodness  and  Severity  of  God 

The  definitive  characteristic  of  god,  according  to 
Christian  belief,  is  love.  This  element  in  his  nature  was 
clearly  implied  in  the  last  chapter,  on  the  fatherhood  of 
God.  It  will  be  more  fully  considered  in  the  next  chapter. 
The  Bible  does  not  stop  at  a  mere  qualification  saying  that 
God  is  lovelike  or  loving.  It  goes  on  to  the  substantive 
equation  saying,  "God  is  love"  (1  John  4:8).  Love  is  the 
very  nature  of  God's  being.  We  must  always  remember 
this  about  the  Father  of  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ.  If  this  is 
omitted  we  miss  the  essence  of  God's  character.  We  could 
pile  up  other  long  attributes  one  upon  another  but  all  of 
them  together  would  not  designate  God  accurately.  We 
may  ascribe  to  God  omnipotence,  omniscience,  and 
omnipresence;  or  immanence,  transcendence,  and  im- 
mutability; but  if  he  be  not  love,  it  is  not  God  as  revealed 
by  Jesus  Christ  the  Son.  Whatever  else  we  say  about  God, 
it  must  be  related  to  his  love.  He  is  our  loving  heavenly 
Father. 

The  Severer  Side  of  God 

But  there  is  another  side  of  his  nature,  a  side  which 
is  severe  and  majestic,  rigorous,  and  not  to  be  mocked. 
Our  forefathers  were  perhaps  more  familiar  with  this 
aspect  of  God's  nature  than  we  are.  They  dwelt  upon  it 
often  and  many  people  have  considered  their  picture  of 
God  as  forbidding,  perilous,  and  indeed  untrue  to  Christ's 
revelation  of  the  Father.   But  this  severity  was  a  constant 


118  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

and  inherent  characteristic  in  their  thought  about  God. 
This  was  not  because  they  were  men  of  the  frontier  who 
lived  in  a  hardy  manner.  It  was  not  because  they  were 
less  fastidious  than  we  are.  It  was  because  they  were 
familiar  with  the  Bible  and  took  seriously  the  full  picture 
of  God's  nature. 

As  indicated  in  the  last  chapter,  God  is  a  father  who 
exercises  authority  and  administers  discipline.  There  are 
many  ways  this  is  indicated  in  the  Old  Testament.  Adam 
and  Eve  were  driven  from  the  Garden  of  Eden  and  the 
gateway  was  barred  by  the  flame  of  a  sword.  The  wicked 
on  the  earth  were  destroyed  by  the  flood.  Plagues  were 
visited  on  Egypt  for  the  oppression  of  Israel  and  upon 
wayward  Israel  for  their  unbelief  in  the  wilderness.  God 
was  a  jealous  God  visiting  the  iniquity  of  the  fathers  upon 
the  children,  upon  the  third  and  upon  the  fourth  genera- 
tion. When  the  kingdom  of  Israel  was  established  the 
prophets  urged  the  people  always  to  be  faithful  to  the 
covenant  made  at  Sinai.  The  kings  and  the  people  were 
warned  of  the  doom  which  awaited  them  for  their  faithless- 
ness. Their  special  favor  from  God  would  not  protect 
them.  "You  only  have  I  known  of  all  the  families  of  the 
earth;  therefore,  I  will  punish  you  for  all  your  iniquities" 
(Amos  3:2).  Like  a  relentless,  inescapable  word  of  doom, 
the  prophecies  of  Amos  were  fulfilled  on  Samaria  and  the 
pronouncements  of  Jeremiah  came  to  pass  in  Jerusalem. 
This  perilous  prospect  of  destruction  was  set  forth  as  the 
judgment  of  God  upon  his  people — especially  upon  his 
favored  people. 

This  View  Runs  Through  the  Bible 

There  are  many  who  argue  that  this  is  only  the  Old 
Testament  view  of  God,  whereas  in  the  New  Testament 
we  have  a  different  picture.  It  is  argued  that  the  prophets 


The  Goodness  and  Severity  of  God  119 

saw  God  erroneously  as  a  God  primarily  of  judgment  and 
severity,  whereas  Jesus  came  to  reveal  God  primarily  as 
a  loving  father  who  did  not  have  these  severe  char- 
acteristics. 

This  is  to  overlook  many  aspects  of  Jesus'  teaching 
and  of  the  New  Testament  record.  A  few  familiar 
instances  can  serve  to  disabuse  our  minds  of  this  one-sided 
view  of  Jesus  and  of  his  teaching.  "If  you  do  not  forgive 
men  their  trespasses,  neither  will  your  Father  forgive  your 
trespasses"  (Matthew  6:15;  see  also  Mark  11:25).  "Do 
not  fear  those  who  kill  the  body  but  cannot  kill  the  soul; 
rather  fear  him  who  can  destroy  both  soul  and  body  in 
heir  (Matthew  10:28;  see  also  Luke  12:5).  "Woe  to  you, 
scribes  and  Pharisees,  hypocrites!"  (Matthew  23:13ff.;  see 
also  Luke  11:52).  "And  cast  the  worthless  servant  into 
the  outer  darkness;  there  men  will  weep  and  gnash  their 
teeth"  (Matthew  25:30;  see  also  Luke  13:28).  "Depart 
from  me,  you  cursed,  into  the  eternal  fire  prepared  for 
the  devil  and  his  angels"  (Matthew  25:41;  see  also  Mark 
9:42-48).  As  severe  a  word  as  Jesus  ever  spoke  was  his 
warning  about  blasphemy  against  the  Holy  Spirit.  "Who- 
ever blasphemes  against  the  Holy  Spirit  never  has 
forgiveness,  but  is  guilty  of  an  eternal  sin"  (Mark  3:29). 
The  severity  of  God  is  set  forth  by  Paul  in  the  celebrated 
"law  of  the  harvest":  "Do  not  be  deceived;  God  is  not 
mocked,  for  whatever  a  man  sows,  that  he  will  also  reap" 
(Galatians  6:7).  It  is  reflected  in  Hebrews  10:31:  "It  is 
a  fearful  thing  to  fall  into  the  hands  of  the  living  God." 

The  Holiness  of  God 

These  random  references  call  attention  to  a  quality 
of  God's  nature  which  may  be  summed  up  in  the  familiar 
word  holy.  God  is  a  holy  God.  His  love  is  holy  love.  He 
is  the  holy  one  of  Israel.   The  ark  of  his  presence  was  a 


120  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

holy  ark.  It  was  placed  in  the  holy  of  holies  in  the 
tabernacle.  The  mountain  where  he  was  worshiped  was 
a  holy  mountain.  Jerusalem  became  the  holy  city.  The 
classic  address  to  God  is  "Holy,  holy,  holy,  Lord  God 
Almighty"  (Revelation  4:8).  Our  bodies  are  holy  because 
they  are  temples  of  God.  Jesus  prayed  to  God  as  "Holy 
Father."  The  Spirit  of  God  is  the  Holy  Spirit.  In  all  these 
usages  two  conceptions  are  interwoven.  One  is  awe- 
someness.    The  other  is  righteousness. 

Holiness  As  Aiue-fullness  and  Mystery 

The  concept  of  awesomeness  is  expressed  in  many 
familiar  words  in  the  vocabulary  of  religion.  There  are 
the  more  shocking  words  like  frightful  or  terrible,  and  the 
ideas  of  God  as  the  Perilous  Other  or  as  Wholly  Other. 
These  ideas  are  exemplified  in  the  Bible  by  the  death  of 
Uzziah  when  he  touched  the  ark  to  steady  it  (2  Samuel 
6:6,  7)  and  by  the  psalmist's  phrase,  "He  utters  his  voice, 
the  earth  melts"  (46:6).  There  are  less  shocking  but 
equally  awesome  words  like  reverence,  fearful,  majesty, 
and  mystery.  These  are  exemplified  in  the  Bible  by 
Isaiah's  experience  in  the  temple  when  he  saw  the  Lord 
high  and  lifted  up  (Isaiah  6:1-5).  The  same  mood  is 
expressed  in  his  view  of  God's  difference  from  man:  "For 
as  the  heavens  are  higher  than  the  earth,  so  are  my  ways 
higher  than  your  ways,  and  my  thoughts  than  your 
thoughts"  (Isaiah  55:9).  These  two  aspects  are  put 
together  in  Rudolf  Otto's  conception  of  the  holy  as  a 
mystery  at  once  humbling  and  attractive,  awe-inspiring 
and  uplifting.  He  calls  this  sense  of  sacred  presence 
mysterium  tremendum  et  fascinans. 

A  good  Biblical  instance  is  the  experience  of  Moses 
at  the  burning  bush.  He  was  fascinated  by  it  and  said, 
"I  will  turn  aside  and  see  this  great  sight,  why  the  bush 


The  Goodness  and  Severity  of  God  121 

is  not  burnt."  He  was  also  awe-struck  and  stayed  by  the 
voice  which  said,  ''Do  not  come  near:  put  off  your  shoes 
from  your  feet,  for  the  place  on  which  you  are  standing  is 
holy  ground."  Then  Moses  hid  his  face,  being  afraid  to 
look  at  God  (Exodus  3:1-6). 

Something  of  this  background  is  retained  in  the  New 
Testament  respect  for  God's  holiness  and  for  the  awesome 
majesty  of  the  gospel.  "How  shall  we  escape  if  we  neglect 
such  a  great  salvation?"  (Hebrews  2:3).  "For  you  have 
not  come  to  what  may  be  touched,  a  blazing  fire,  and 
darkness,  and  gloom,  and  a  tempest.  .  .  .  But  you  have 
come  ...  to  the  city  of  the  living  God  ...  to  a  judge 
who  is  God  of  all  .  .  .  and  to  Jesus,  the  mediator  of  a  new 
covenant"  (Hebrews  12:18,  22-24).  The  comforting  drama 
of  Revelation,  with  all  its  personal  assurances,  is  set  within 
the  sweep  of  this  same  majesty  of  God.  The  worshiping 
heart  of  man  discerns  that  God's  presence  is  awesome 
indeed  and  that  the  fear  of  the  Lord  is  the  beginning  of 
wisdom. 

Holiness  As  Righteousness  and  Goodness 

God  is  also  holy  in  the  sense  of  righteousness.  Without 
losing  any  of  the  sense  of  mystery  and  awe,  the  holiness 
of  God  is  increasingly  ethicized.  In  Abraham's  time  it  was 
clearly  affirmed.  "Shall  not  the  judge  of  all  the  earth  do 
right?"  (Genesis  18:25).  The  psalmist  echoed  this  note: 
"The  ordinances  of  the  Lord  are  true,  and  righteous 
altogether"  (Psalm  19:9).  The  prophets  lifted  up  this 
quality  of  God  and  laid  its  claim  upon  God's  people.  "But 
let  justice  roll  down  like  waters,  and  righteousness  like 
an  ever-flowing  stream"  (Amos  5:24).  "He  has  showed 
you,  O  man,  what  is  good;  and  what  does  the  Lord  require 
of  you  but  to  do  justice,  and  to  love  kindness,  and  to  walk 
humbly  with  your  God?"   (Micah  6:8). 


122  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

John  the  Baptist  introduced  the  ministry  of  Jesus 
with  the  same  claim  of  righteousness  and  call  to  repentance. 
On  this  characteristic  of  God's  nature  Jesus  based  his 
rigorous  call  to  righteous  living.  Only  so  could  men  come 
under  God's  rule.  "But  seek  first  his  kingdom  and  his 
righteousness"  (Matthew  6:33).  "You,  therefore,  must  be 
perfect,  as  your  heavenly  Father  is  perfect"  (Matthew 
5:48).  This  demand  for  righteousness  grows  out  of  the 
goodness  of  God.  He  alone  is  absolutely  good  and  yet 
he  desires  that  his  children  also  become  good.  His 
righteous  will  for  them  is  not  for  the  sake  of  arbitrary 
obedience  but  for  their  good.  As  they  obey  him  and  fulfill 
his  requirements  they  find  the  fulfillment  of  their  own 
highest  good.  Jesus  pronounced  rich  blessings  on  those 
who  sought  to  do  God's  righteous  will.  They  shall  be 
satisfied  and  shall  see  God.  They  shall  be  called  sons  of 
God  and  shall  belong  to  God's  own  kingdom.  This  is 
the  positive  side  of  God's  goodness,  but  there  is  also  an 
obverse  side. 

Holiness  and  Wrath 

God  is  also  severe  with  those  who  disobey  and  fall 
short  of  his  goodness  (Romans  11:22).  The  word  often 
used  to  express  this  severity  is  wrath.  This  appears 
frequently  in  the  Old  Testament  but  also  occasionally  in 
the  New  Testament — chiefly  in  Revelation  and  in  Romans. 
It  is  echoed  also  in  a  reported  statement  from  Jesus:  "He 
who  believes  in  the  Son  has  eternal  life;  he  who  does  not 
obey  the  Son  shall  not  see  life,  but  the  wrath  of  God  rests 
upon  him"  (John  3:36). 

This  idea  of  wrath  is  disturbing  to  many  people  and 
they  sometimes  disregard  it  or  deny  it  altogether,  as 
incompatible  with  God's  character.  This  is  due  to 
misconceptions  which  should  be  clarified.   God's  wrath  is 


The  Goodness  and  Severity  of  God  123 

not  the  kind  of  uncontrolled  rage  which  many  of  us  indulge 
in  when  we  are  angry.  It  is  rather  the  structure  of  his  moral 
integrity.  It  is  his  severe  discountenancing  of  evil  and  sin. 
The  holiness  of  the  living  God  cannot  brook  evil.  He 
moves  actively  against  it  and  seeks  to  root  it  out  and 
overcome  it.  This  is  not  because  he  is  petulant  and  easily 
offended  but  because  he  desires  goodness  in  his  children 
and  in  his  world.  His  wrath  is  a  quality  of  his  goodness 
and  of  his  love.  It  is  the  measure  of  his  serious  concern 
for  righteousness.  "Note  then  the  kindness  and  the  severity 
of  God"   (Romans  11:22). 

We  have  had  a  glimpse  of  the  more  rugged  and  hardy 
aspects  of  God's  nature.  We  have  now  to  consider  the 
darker  aspects  of  the  human  situation.  These  are 
considered  together  in  the  same  chapter  because  they  are 
logical  counterparts  of  each  other.  God's  severity  and 
judgment  are  expressed  against  the  evil  and  sin  in  the 
world.  Evil  and  sin  in  the  world  are  the  facts  of  our 
experience  in  connection  with  which  we  encounter  God's 
severity  and  judgment.  This  simple  logic  leaves  us, 
however,  with  deep  perplexities  and  aspects  of  Christian 
belief  which  we  shall  have  to  explore  further.  These  are 
the  problems  of  suffering  and  the  nature  and  results  of  sin. 

The  Problem  of  Suffering 
The  problem  of  suffering  is  both  a  practical  and  a 
theological  problem.  From  a  practical  viewpoint  it  centers 
in  the  question:  "Why  do  good  people  suffer?"  People  are 
baffled  and  disturbed  by  the  inequities  in  life.  A  drunken 
driver  runs  suddenly  across  the  center  line  of  the  highway 
and  plows  headlong  into  a  car  with  two  ministers  returning 
home  from  a  communion  service.  The  drunken  driver 
comes  out  with  a  sprained  ankle  and  some  bruises.  One 
of  the  ministers  is  killed  and  the  other  one  spends  weeks 


124  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

in  the  hospital  with  a  brain  concussion  and  a  broken  jaw. 
The  world  is  full  of  pain  and  suffering.  In  glaring 
instances  the  faithful  ones  suffer  acutely  and  the  guilty 
or  evil  ones  are  spared.  Often  of  equally  good  people  one 
is  taken  and  the  other  one  is  left.  Disasters  appear  to  strike 
the  evil  and  the  good  indiscriminately,  whether  in  the 
case  of  the  bridge  of  San  Luis  Rey,  the  sinking  of  the 
Titanic,  or  the  explosion  of  an  airplane  on  the  Colorado 
skyway.  From  a  practical  point  of  view  men  are  weighed 
down  by  the  poignant  burden  of  suffering — whether  from 
natural  disasters  like  earthquakes,  hurricanes,  or  floods; 
from  the  manifold  pains  of  sickness  and  incurable  disease; 
or  from  "the  slings  and  arrows  of  outrageous  fortune." 

A  Problem  for  Theology 

In  the  field  of  theology  this  is  called  the  problem  of 
evil.  It  grows  out  of  the  fact  of  suffering  but  it  is  set  by 
our  beliefs  about  God.  We  believe  he  is  "God  the  Father 
Almighty"  and  that  he  "creates,  sustains,  and  orders  all." 
We  also  believe  that  he  is  "our  Father  who  art  in  heaven" 
and  that  he  is  "perfectly  good"  and  "absolute  love."  The 
theological  problem  is:  How  can  God,  who  is  both 
almighty  and  all-loving,  permit  evil  and  suffering  in  his 
world?  If  he  is  almighty  and  still  permits  suffering,  it 
would  appear  that  his  love  is  less  than  perfect.  If  he  is 
all-loving  and  permits  suffering,  it  would  appear  that  his 
power  is  limited  and  that  he  struggles  as  best  he  can 
against  great  odds. 

Theological  and  religious  literature  is  full  of 
"theodicies,"  of  efforts  to  justify  the  ways  of  God  to  men. 
Many  attempts  to  solve  the  problem  of  evil  do  it  by 
minimizing  one  or  the  other  of  the  three  elements  in  it: 
the  fact  of  suffering,  the  love  of  God,  or  the  power  of  God. 

The    fact    of    suffering    is    minimized    by    Hindu 


The  Goodness  and  Severity  of  God  125 

philosophers,  who  say  that  all  sense  experience  in  the 
world  is  maya  or  illusion.  This  philosophy  is  current  in 
America  in  the  view  of  Christian  Science.  Suffering  and 
death  are  not  real,  it  is  argued;  they  are  illusions  due  to  the 
error  of  mortal  mind.  Popular  "pollyannaism"  is  a  similar 
attempt  to  ease  the  problem  by  minimizing  the  pain.  Such 
an  outlook  provides  a  good  cure  for  imaginary  ills  and 
it  may  often  reduce  the  whining  about  actual  pain.  But 
it  does  not  deal  adequately  with  the  real  suffering  of  men. 
Nor  does  it  give  a  satisfactory  answer  to  the  question: 
Why  should  man  be  beset  by  the  illusions  of  mortal  mind? 

The  love  of  God  is  minimized  by  unduly  exalting 
God's  absolute  omnipotence  and  sovereignty.  This  marks 
the  Moslem  mode  of  thought  about  Allah.  Everything 
that  happens  is  viewed  as  the  decree  of  Allah.  His  decrees 
are  absolute  and  may  indeed  be  arbitrary.  It  is  the 
believer's  business  to  submit  and  this  religion  of  submis- 
sion is  therefore  called  Islam.  Attempts  to  exalt  God's 
sovereign  decrees  unduly  or  to  regard  him  as  beyond  good 
and  evil  err  in  this  same  manner.  They  deal  with  the 
problem  of  evil  by  arbitrarily  ruling  out  any  questionings 
about  God's  providence.  To  be  sure,  surrender  to  the  will 
and  the  appointments  of  God  brings  great  religious 
comfort  to  those  who  suffer.  But  it  is  quite  as  much  a 
trust  in  his  love  as  it  is  a  submission  to  his  power. 

The  power  of  God  is  minimized  by  various  forms  of 
dualism.  According  to  ancient  Persian  dualism  there  were 
two  ultimate  cosmic  forces  which  were  equal.  Ahura 
Mazda  was  the  power  of  light  and  Angra  Mainyu  was  the 
power  of  darkness.  They  were  regarded  as  in  eternal 
struggle  with  each  other.  Such  a  view  takes  evil  and  the 
moral  struggle  with  due  seriousness,  but  its  belief  in  an 
uncreated  being  coequal  with  God  is  alien  to  the  Christian 
faith. 


126  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

Satan  and  Suffering 

In  the  Bible  there  is  a  similar  struggle  on  between 
God  and  the  Adversary,  who  is  called  by  such  various 
names  as  Satan  (Mark  1:13),  the  devil  (Luke  4:2),  or 
Beelzebul  (Luke  11:15-19).  The  Biblical  view  differs, 
however,  from  ancient  and  modern  dualism  in  several 
ways.  The  evil  force  is  a  personal  will  set  against  God  and 
his  children  in  proud  rebellion,  sly  deceit,  or  wanton 
destruction.  He  is  not  a  mere  impersonal  resistance  to 
God  or  a  mere  evil  principle  in  the  world.  This  personal 
evil  force  works  against  God  in  the  inner  life  of  men  as 
well  as  in  the  accumulated  errors  and  prejudices  of  society. 
This  personal  evil  force  is  a  created  being  and  not  co-equal 
with  God.  The  Biblical  material  about  the  devil  is  not 
primarily  philosophical  but  it  is  centered  on  the  decisive 
victory  Jesus  Christ  won  against  him.  It  is  concerned  with 
the  resources  of  grace  which  are  available  to  deal  with  his 
deceitful  wiles  and  his  fiery  darts.1 

God's  almighty  power  is  limited  in  some  current 
modes  of  thought.  A  noted  example  is  Professor  Bright- 
man's  philosophy  of  a  finite  God.  In  his  emphasis  upon 
God  as  a  personal  being,  he  also  argues  that  God  does  not 
have  absolute  power.  In  God's  inner  nature  there  is  a 
"given,"  an  element  of  inertia  or  resistance  to  be  overcome 
as  he  seeks  to  exercise  his  benevolent  will.2  Such  per- 
sonalism  rightly  stresses  the  tenderness  and  mercy  of  God 
but  omits  the  note  of  God's  absolute  power.  This  is  a 
serious  omission  both  for  philosophy  and  for  religious 
faith,  because  it  views  God  as  less  than  ultimate. 

These  and  other  attempts  to  solve  the  theological 
problem  of  suffering  leave  disturbing  questions  in  the 

1See  William  Robinson's  The  Devil  and  God  (New  York:  Abingdon- 
Cokesbury,  1945)  for  a  clarifying  discussion  of  this  matter. 

2  Edgar  Sheffield  Brightman,  The  Problem  of  God  (New  York:  The 
Abingdon  Press,  1930). 


The  Goodness  and  Severity  of  God  127 

mind.  It  has  been  frequently  and  rightly  said,  therefore, 
that  Christian  belief  does  not  offer  a  neat  intellectual 
answer  to  it.  What  is  offered  is  a  religious  answer,  a  faith 
which  enables  one  to  work  against  evil,  reduce  suffering, 
and  endure  hardship  as  a  good  soldier.  The  Bible  gives  no 
neat  answers  to  the  mind  but  it  reveals  God's  kingdom  as 
present  in  the  healing  of  the  sick  and  in  ministering  to 
those  in  need.  "My  Father  is  working  still,"  said  Jesus, 
"and  I  am  working"    (John  5:17). 

Helpful  Considerations 

There  are,  of  course,  some  considerations  which  make 
the  problem  of  suffering  less  baffling  to  the  believer's  mind. 
It  helps  to  note  that  suffering  is  inherent  in  sensitivity. 
The  risk  of  pain  is  involved  in  the  sensitivity  to  pleasure 
and  delight.  The  higher  the  capacity  for  joy,  the  greater 
the  possibility  of  anguish.  One  wise  man  echoed  our  real 
mood  when  he  declared,  "I  would  rather  be  a  man  in  pain 
than  a  cabbage  in  ecstasy."  A  doctor  dealing  with  leprosy 
has  reported  that  fingers  and  toes  are  not  lost  from  the 
disease  itself.  They  are  lost  because  of  injuries  and 
infection  which  occur  when  the  disease  deadens  the  nerves 
in  the  hands  or  feet.  The  patient  is  deprived  of  the 
protection  of  pain! 

It  helps  to  note  that  suffering  is  inherent  in  order. 
The  "laws"  of  nature  are  "working"  all  the  time  in  a 
dependable  and  orderly  manner.  This  is  not  a  capricious 
universe.  Gravity  may  pull  a  bricklayer  to  the  sidewalk 
when  he  is  overbalanced.  But  gravity  holds  the  wall  in 
position.  Without  this  stability  boats  would  not  float, 
and  we  could  not  walk  on  the  ground.  By  and  large  it 
works  out  well  for  God's  children.  This  order  is  not  an 
impersonal  but  an  impartial  order  which  is  an  expression 
of  God's  own  integrity  and  dependability.    Indeed,  such 


128  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

impartiality  is  the  expression  of  God's  perfect  love  and 
the  standard  for  our  own  conduct.  "Love  your  enemies,,, 
said  Jesus,  "and  pray  for  those  who  persecute  you,  so  that 
you  may  be  sons  of  your  Father  who  is  in  heaven;  for  he 
makes  his  sun  rise  on  the  evil  and  on  the  good,  and  sends 
rain  on  the  just  and  on  the  unjust"    (Matthew  5:44,  45). 

It  helps  to  note  that  suffering  is  involved  in  social 
solidarity.  There  was  an  earlier  time  when  this  was  clear 
and  taken  for  granted.  If  a  man  committed  murder,  any 
member  of  his  family  was  blood-guilty.  "The  fathers  have 
eaten  sour  grapes,  and  the  children's  teeth  are  set  on  edge" 
(Ezekiel  18:2).  Primitive  tribes  to  this  day  have  a  strong 
sense  of  family  and  tribal  solidarity  in  their  court  pro- 
cedures. We  have  progressed  to  a  keener  sense  of 
individual  responsibility.  We  have  learned  the  grim 
meaning  of  the  private  burden  each  must  carry  for  himself. 
"The  soul  that  sins  shall  die"  (Ezekiel  18:4b).  But 
modern  transportation  makes  all  the  nations  of  the  world 
vulnerable  to  one  another's  diseases,  as  we  learned  in  the 
influenza  epidemic  of  1918.  World  tensions  and  world 
wars  are  the  illnesses  of  world  community.  This  is 
inherent  in  all  community  and  the  more  intimate  the 
brotherhood  the  greater  the  risk  of  pain.  "If  one  member 
suffers,  all  suffer  together"   (1  Corinthians  12:26).3 

It  helps  to  note  that  suffering  is  essential  for  discipline 
and  growth.  We  may  not  wish  it  so.  We  may  not  prefer 
that  trials  make  us  strong.  We  may  think  we  would  like 
to  make  a  world  with  equable  climate,  free  from  weeds, 
where  bread  could  be  eaten  without  sweat  on  the  brow. 


3  It  is  in  terms  of  social  solidarity  that  we  can  understand  Paul's  statement, 
"For  as  in  Adam  all  die,  so  also  in  Christ  shall  all  be  made  alive."  "Adamic 
sin"  need  not  imply  that  each  of  us  is  guilty  for  Adam's  sin.  It  does  imply 
that  each  of  us  inherits  his  human  nature  from  the  first  man,  Adam.  It  implies 
that  each  of  us  grows  up  in  a  distorted  and  sinful  culture.  It  implies  that  each 
of  us  at  the  age  of  accountability  falls,  like  Adam,  from  innocence  to  the 
knowledge  of  good  and  evil. 


The  Goodness  and  Severity  of  God  129 

But  we  know  better.  We  know  that  that  would  produce 
a  race  of  jellyfish,  of  placid  and  contented  cows.  In  our 
more  responsible  moments  we  see  that  the  severity  of 
God  is  part  of  the  goodness  of  God. 

It  helps  to  note  that  suffering  is  involved  in  freedom. 
God  has  created  us  free  to  choose,  free  to  take  responsi- 
bility. To  be  sure,  our  freedom  is  not  absolute  or  complete. 
We  cannot  by  choosing  add  one  cubit  to  our  stature.  We 
do  not  choose  our  parents  or  the  century  we  are  born  in, 
or  the  mother  tongue  we  learn.  Our  freedom  is  limited 
by  our  native  endowments,  by  our  environment,  and  by 
our  former  choices.  But  we  are  really  free.  We  know  we 
are  free  by  the  experience  of  making  choices.  Indeed, 
freedom  is  essential  for  developing  moral  character  and 
for  the  exercise  of  love.  But  such  freedom  involves  the 
possibility  of  making  wrong  choices  and  of  resistance 
against  goodness  and  love.  In  this  real  freedom  lies  real 
risk  of  error  and  of  suffering.  To  ask  why  we  cannot  have 
freedom  without  this  risk  is  like  asking  why  we  cannot 
have  a  circle  with  corners. 

It  helps,  finally,  to  note  that  the  suffering  of  good 
people  often  works  out  for  the  good  of  others.  Thus, 
Joseph  said  to  his  brothers,  who  had  sold  him  into 
Egyptian  slavery,  "Do  not  be  distressed,  or  angry  with 
yourselves,  because  you  sold  me  here;  for  God  sent  me 
before  you  to  preserve  life"  (Genesis  45:5).  Thus  Paul 
declares:  "We  know  that  in  everything  God  works  for 
good  with  those  who  love  him,  who  are  called  according 
to  his  purpose"  (Romans  8:28).  Thus  Isaiah  foresaw  the 
results  of  the  suffering  of  God's  Servant.  "With  his  stripes 
we  are  healed"  (Isaiah  53:5).  Thus  "Christ  died  for  our 
sins  in  accordance  with  the  scriptures"  (1  Corinthians 
15:3).  This  is  the  vicarious  principle  wherein  suffering  is 
taken  on  out  of  love  for  others  and  issues  in  their  good. 


130  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

It  is  the  Christian  gospel  and  it  is  God's  triumphant  way 
of  dealing  with  the  problem  of  suffering. 

The  Nature  and  Results  of  Sin 

We  have  been  looking  at  the  fact  and  the  problem 
of  suffering  as  a  counterpart  to  the  goodness  and  severity 
of  God.  A  closely  allied  issue  is  the  fact  and  the  problem 
of  sin.  Both  suffering  and  sin  are  regarded  as  evil.  They 
both  are  practical  burdens  to  men  and  they  both  require 
clarification  in  our  Christian  belief.  Sin  is  often  regarded 
as  moral  evil  because  it  is  closely  related  to  personal  choices 
and  to  the  development  of  moral  character.  The  doctrine 
of  sin  is  therefore  important  in  Christian  belief. 

The  Fact  of  Sin 

Sin  is  taken  as  a  serious  fact.  There  has  been  a 
tendency  in  some  circles  to  minimize  the  fact  of  sin.  Man's 
major  difficulty  has  been  regarded  as  ignorance,  im- 
maturity, poverty,  cultural  lag,  or  maladjustment.  His 
natural  condition  has  been  regarded  as  encouraging  and 
hopeful.  His  predicament  has  been  misjudged.  He  is 
like  the  mouse  which  encountered  an  elephant.  When  the 
elephant  looked  disdainfully  down  his  trunk  and  asked, 
"Why  are  you  so  small?  Why  aren't  you  as  big  and  strong 
as  I  am?"  the  mouse  replied  in  squeaky  understatement, 
"I've  been  sick." 

But  the  Bible  takes  a  darker  view  of  man's  natural 
situation.  Sin  is  regarded  as  a  widespread,  deep-seated, 
and  persistent  fact.  Something  is  centrally  and  terribly 
awry  in  man's  nature  which  requires  outside  help  to  set 
it  straight.  In  recent  thought  this  Biblical  view  is  more 
clearly  confirmed  in  man's  experience.  If  we  look  through 
a  moral  telescope  we  see  great  wrongs  like  exploitation, 
mistrust,  insecurity,  and  war.   If  we  look  through  a  moral 


The  Goodness  and  Severity  of  God  131 

microscope  we  see  jealousy,  anger,  pride,  and  lust.  The 
psychologists  and  the  teachers  have  joined  the  prophets  and 
the  preachers  to  help  make  clear  the  terrible  fact  of  sin. 
In  our  moments  of  insight  we  know  it  of  ourselves.  We 
can  say  with  Paul,  "For  I  do  not  do  what  I  want,  but  I  do 
the  very  thing  I  hate.  ...  I  can  will  what  is  right,  but  I 
cannot  do  it''  (Romans  7:16,  18). 

Sin  Is  Primarily  Against  God 

We  cannot  equate  sin  exactly  with  crime.  Crime  is 
a  violation  of  statute  law  and  it  may  or  may  not  be  a  sin. 
When  the  statute  law  is  itself  contrary  to  the  will  of  God, 
we  must  obey  God  rather  than  man.  Sin  and  misconduct 
are  different,  for  misconduct  is  a  violation  of  social  con- 
vention. Such  experience  is  terrifying  enough,  as  we  all 
know  from  our  most  embarrassing  moments.  Sin  is  usually 
conceived  of  as  some  form  of  lawlessness,  as  a  violation 
of  some  standard  of  behavior. 

It  may  be  a  violation  of  the  law  of  one's  own  well- 
being.  If  we  think  of  our  own  nature  as  self-existent,  then 
such  violation  is  a  vice  or  merely  "letting  oneself  down." 
But  if  we  recognize  the  image  of  God  in  our  nature,  then 
we  see  that  violation  of  the  law  of  our  being  is  a  sin  against 
God.  Thus  Paul  pleads  for  clean  living  on  a  high  religious 
level.  "The  body  is  not  meant  for  immorality,  but  for  the 
Lord.  .  .  .  Shall  I  therefore  take  the  members  of  Christ 
and  make  them  members  of  a  prostitute?"  (1  Corinthians 
6:13,  15). 

The  lawlessness  may  be  a  violation  of  the  law  of 
fellowship  or  the  law  of  love.  Sin  in  this  sense  is 
primarily  selfishness  or  self-centeredness.  It  is  an  attempt 
to  isolate  the  self  and  wall  it  off  from  personal  relation- 
ships. This  is  rightly  seen  as  a  widespread  malady  in 
modern  life.   Men  seek  their  own  selfish  ends  and  deprive 


132  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

themselves  of  the  larger  life  for  which  they  are  made. 
This  is  sad  enough  when  seen  as  anti-social  conduct  or 
when  seen  in  terms  of  the  pathology  of  personality  due 
to  isolation  and  rejection.  It  is  more  sad  still  and  more 
true  to  fact  when  we  see  it  as  isolation  from  God.  "Thou 
hast  made  us  for  thyself  and  our  hearts  are  restless  until 
they  repose  in  thee."  Sin  against  fellowship  and  sin 
against  God  are  intertwined  in  the  Bible.  "For  he  who 
does  not  love  his  brother  whom  he  has  seen,  cannot  love 
God  whom  he  has  not  seen"  (1  John  4;  20).  But  the  fact 
that  we  are  children  of  a  common  Father  makes  the  sin 
against  the  brother  a  deeper  wrong. 

The  lawlessness  may  be  regarded  as  against  the  moral 
law.  But  here  again  we  can  see  that  its  worst  feature  is 
that  it  violates  God's  own  will.  Thus  it  has  been  well 
stated  in  the  Westminster  Catechism:  "Sin  is  any  trans- 
gression of  or  any  want  of  conformity  to  the  will  of  God." 
Sin  is  a  theological  word  which  indicates  the  divine 
dimension  of  man's  predicament.  Sin  is  primarily  against 
God. 

Sin  Involves  the  Total  Personality  of  Man 

It  involves  both  the  conscious  and  the  unconscious 
areas  of  a  man's  life.  There  is  a  view  which  speaks  only 
of  known  sin.  In  some  ways  what  people  do  consciously  is 
rightly  regarded  as  their  truest  behavior.  It  is  better  if 
good.  It  is  worse  if  evil.  But  the  Bible  long  ago  voiced 
the  discerning  prayers,  "Clear  thou  me  from  hidden  faults" 
(Psalm  19:12)  and  "Create  in  me  a  clean  heart,  O  God" 
(Psalm  51:10).  Modern  psychology  has  discovered  afresh 
the  unified  nature  of  the  conscious  and  the  unconscious 
levels  of  personality.   Both  are  involved  in  sin. 

Sin  involves  both  the  private  and  the  social  aspects  of 
our  behavior.  We  are  perhaps  clear  enough  on  the  private 


The  Goodness  and  Severity  of  God  133 

aspect  of  sin.  "Not  my  brother,  nor  my  sister,  but  it's  me, 
O  Lord,  standing  in  the  need  of  prayer!"  "I  am  a  man  of 
unclean  lips."  We  need  to  see  more  clearly,  however,  our 
participation  in  the  social  dimension  of  sin.  "I  dwell  in 
the  midst  of  a  people  of  unclean  lips"   (Isaiah  6:5). 

Sin  involves  both  the  motive  and  the  act.  Jesus 
did  more  than  anyone  else  to  push  the  problem  of  sin 
back  into  the  intents  of  the  heart.  By  his  discerning 
teaching,  anger  becomes  murder  and  the  lustful  look 
becomes  adultery  (Matthew  5:21-30).  Christian  belief  is 
accordingly  persistently  concerned  with  the  inner  springs 
of  action.  Here  is  where  the  conflict  centers.  'Tor  I  do 
not  do  what  I  want,  but  I  do  the  very  thing  I  hate" 
(Romans  7:15).  Here  is  also  where  the  power  of  the  gospel 
applies.  'Tor  the  law  of  the  Spirit  of  life  in  Christ  Jesus 
has  set  me  free  from  the  law  of  sin  and  death"    (Romans 

8:2). 

Jesus  did  more  than  anyone  else  to  lift  up  the  im- 
portance of  the  overt  act  also.  "You  will  know  them  by 
their  fruits.  .  .  .  Not  everyone  who  says  to  me,  'Lord, 
Lord,'  shall  enter  the  kingdom  of  heaven,  but  he  who 
does  the  will  of  my  Father  who  is  in  heaven"    (Matthew 

7:16,21). 

Jesus'  emphasis  on  action  applies  equally  to  failure  to 
act.  Sins  of  omission  are  vividly  warned  against  in  the 
parables  of  the  talents  (Matthew  25:14-30),  the  good 
Samaritan  (Luke  10:29-37),  and  the  last  judgment  (Mat- 
thew 25:31-46).  It  is  the  responsibility  of  the  Christian 
minister  to  preach  an  "omissionary"  sermon  every  so  often! 
According  to  Christian  belief  there  is  a  strong  bond  of 
unity  in  our  behavior  tying  together  the  desires  of  the 
heart,  the  intentions  of  the  will,  the  statements  of  the 
mouth,  and  the  deeds  of  the  hands.  All  are  integrally 
involved  in  sin.  Sin  involves  the  total  personality  of  man; 


134  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

both  the  conscious  and  the  unconscious  areas;  both  the 
private  and  the  social  aspects;  both  the  motive  and  the  act. 

Sin  and  Sins 

Emphasis  is  therefore  placed  upon  sin  as  a  unified 
principle  of  personality  and  upon  sins  as  varied  and 
specific  expressions  of  this  central  principle.  To  emphasize 
either  sin  or  sins  to  the  exclusion  of  the  other  is  to  miss 
the  full  significance  of  man's  predicament.  It  is  to  miss 
also  the  nature  and  the  glory  of  his  salvation. 

The  Bible  is  concerned  with  specific  sins.  "You  shall 
call  his  name  Jesus,  for  he  will  save  his  people  from  their 
sins"  (Matthew  1:21).  "Now  the  works  of  the  flesh  are 
plain:  immorality,  impurity,  licentiousness,  idolatry, 
sorcery,  enmity,  strife,  jealousy,  anger,  selfishness,  dissen- 
sion, party  spirit,  envy,  drunkenness,  carousing,  and  the 
like.  I  warn  you,  as  I  warned  you  before,  that  those  who 
do  such  things  shall  not  inherit  the  kingdom  of  God" 
(Galatians  5:19-21).  Christian  morality  has  always  been 
concerned  with  codes  of  behavior  which  involve  daily 
deeds  and  a  way  of  life.  In  dealing  with  these  deeds  various 
groupings  and  catalogs  of  sins  are  made.  They  imply 
overt  acts  on  the  one  hand  and  point,  on  the  other  hand, 
to  the  springs  of  action.  This  is  seen  in  the  typical  list  just 
mentioned  from  Galatians.  It  is  seen  also  in  the  classical 
list  of  the  seven  root  sins:  pride,  envy,  anger,  sloth, 
covetousness,  gluttony,  and  lust.4  These  root  sins  are,  in 
turn,  sometimes  subdivided  into  interrelated  groupings  of 

4  See  Noel  Hall,  The  Seven  Root  Sins  (London:  Oxford  University  Press, 
1936),  passim.  These  seven  are  grouped  still  further.  Three  of  them  (sloth, 
gluttony,  and  lust)  are  regarded  as  sensual  sins  and  are  equated  with  "the  lust 
of  the  flesh"  in  1  John  2:16  and  with  "good  for  food"  in  Genesis  3:6.  The  first 
three  (pride,  envy,  and  anger)  are  regarded  as  spiritual  sins  and  are  equated 
with  "the  pride  of  life"  and  "to  make  one  wise"  in  1  John  and  Genesis.  The 
remaining  one  (covetousness)  is  regarded  as  a  mixture  on  the  border  of  sensual 
and  spiritual  sin  and  is  equated  with  "the  lust  of  the  eyes"  and  "a  delight  to 
the  eyes"  in  the  Scripture  references. 


The  Goodness  and  Severity  of  God  135 

spiritual  and  sensual  sins.  Such  division  reflects  the 
combination  of  pride  and  bodily  appetites  as  dominant 
motifs  in  the  Biblical  story  of  man's  early  sin  (Genesis 
3:M0).5 

The  Bible  also  points,  however,  to  the  thought  of  sin 
as  a  central  principle  of  wrongness  at  the  heart  of  man, 
out  of  which  are  the  issues  of  life.  Sin  is  a  problem  at  the 
center  of  the  self,  not  merely  of  specific  external  acts. 
Tinkering  with  these  acts  is  ineffective  unless  and  until 
the  heart  is  changed.  This  is  why  Jesus  said  to  Nicodemus, 
"Unless  one  is  born  anew,  he  cannot  see  the  kingdom  of 
God"   (John  3:3). 

This  is  the  truth  in  the  otherwise  exaggerated  doctrine 
of  total  depravity.  It  should  not  be  taken  to  mean  that 
every  element  or  level  of  personality  is  absolutely  evil  or 
corrupt.  It  should  not  be  accepted  as  meaning  that  the 
image  of  God  is  eliminated  by  sin.  But  there  is  truth  in  the 
belief  that  the  image  of  God  is  distorted  at  the  center  by 
sin.  There  is  truth  in  the  belief  that  every  level  of 
personality  is  tinctured  by  sin.  There  is  no  such  thing  as 
a  little  garlic  in  butter.  There  is  truth  in  the  belief  that  a 
man  is  completely  unable  by  his  own  unaided  efforts  to 
deal  with  his  self-centeredness,  which  is  the  heart  of  his 
sin.  This  is  the  grim  and  realistic  condition  of  man 
according  to  Christian  belief.  It  is  seen  as  the  counterpart 
of  God's  goodness  and  severity.  It  can  be  conceded  freely 
and  with  open  eyes  because  the  gospel  is  offered  as  a 
remedy  for  precisely  this  dark  malady.  "If  any  one  is  in 
Christ,  he  is  a  new  creation;  the  old  has  passed  away, 
behold,  the  new  has  come"  (2  Corinthians  5:17).  We  are 
always  more  ready  to  discern  and  acknowledge  our  need 
when  help  is  at  hand  to  meet  it. 


6  It  reflects  also  the  classical  motivations  to  sin — superba  and  concupiscentia— 
as  well  as  two  major  desire  drives  of  depth  psychology:    self-assertion  and  sex. 


136  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

The  Results  of  Sin  Are  Serious  and  Severe 

Sin's  results  were  already  given  some  preliminary 
consideration  in  connection  with  the  atonement.  They 
have  been  foreshadowed  further  in  the  present  chapter.  A 
brief  listing  here  will  suffice. 

One  result  is  suffering.  "The  way  of  the  faithless  is 
their  ruin"  (Proverbs  13:15).  A  large  measure  of  the  pain 
and  suffering  in  the  world  is  the  result  of  man's  sinning. 
This  is  the  law  of  the  harvest  (Galatians  6:7).  While  it 
is  not  true  that  a  given  person's  suffering  is  due  to  his  own 
precise  sins,  it  is  true  that  a  cumulative  result  of  sin  is 
suffering.6 

Another  result  of  sin  is  moral  weakness.  After  one 
experience  of  sin  it  becomes  easier  to  repeat  it  and  harder 
to  refrain  from  it.  One  who  fails  to  get  up  when  the  alarm 
clock  rings  soon  reaches  the  point  where  he  cannot  hear  it 
ring  at  all. 

Guilt  is  another  result.  This  is  an  objective  fact,  for 
the  individual  becomes  blameworthy  whether  he  acknowl- 
edges it  or  not.  But  it  is  also  a  widespread  and  poignant 
fact  of  subjective  experience.  The  problem  of  felt  guilt — 
whether  dimly  or  sharply  felt— is  an  almost  universal 
human  problem. 

A  further  result  is  alienation.  Inasmuch  as  man  is 
made  for  fellowship  with  God  and  as  sin  is  primarily 
against  God,  there  results  from  sin  a  deep-seated  estrange- 
ment from  God.  This  estrangement  shows  up  in  the 
form  of  tensions  and  contradictions  in  man's  own  per- 
sonality as  well  as  in  the  form  of  divisions  and  conflicts 
between  a  man  and  his  fellows  in  modern  society.  There 
are  confusion  and  discord  in  the  whole  orchestra  because 
the  players  take  their  eyes  off  the  conductor.    The  whole 

9  See   Jesus'   comment   on   the   "eighteen   upon   whom    the   tower   in   Siloam 
fell  and  killed  them"   (Luke  13:1-5). 


The  Goodness  and  Severity  of  God  137 

gamut  of  sin's  results  in  man  may  be  summed  up  in  the 
word  bondage — bondage  to  sin  and  to  the  snares  of  the 
devil.  Such  a  view  is  not  a  mere  bit  of  primitive  imagery 
but  a  profound  interpretation  of  the  spiritual  nature  of 
sin,  of  the  whole  tangled  snare  we  get  caught  in  by  our 
sin,  and  of  the  power  beyond  ourselves  in  whose  clutches 
we  are  bound. 

The  ultimate  framework  within  which  the  results  of 
sin  are  seen  in  their  true  perspective  is  the  goodness  and 
severity  of  God.  By  the  side  of  God's  own  goodness  and 
righteousness  man's  sin  appears  all  the  more  wrong.  The 
results  of  sin  are  to  be  seen  as  God's  severe  judgment  upon 
it.  This  judgment  is  severe  because  God  is  constitutionally 
unable  to  countenance  sin  and  because  he  is  intensely  in 
earnest  in  his  demand  for  righteousness. 


CHAPTER  EIGHT 


In  This  Is  Love 

The  focus  and  illuminating  center  of  god's  love  is  in 
the  coming  of  Christ  into  the  world.  This  glowing  fact 
shines  on  every  page  of  the  New  Testament  and  comes 
occasionally  to  explicit  statement.  "In  this  is  love,  not  that 
we  loved  God,  but  that  he  loved  us  and  sent  his  Son  to  be 
the  expiation  for  our  sins"  (1  John  4:10).  This  bold 
theological  proposition  is  athrob  with  the  full  power  and 
appeal  of  the  gospel.  It  is  preceded  and  followed  by  these 
parallel  statements:  "By  this  we  know  love,  that  he  laid 
down  his  life  for  us;  and  we  ought  to  lay  down  our  lives 
for  the  brethren"  (3:16),  and  "Beloved,  if  God  so  loved 
us,  we  also  ought  to  love  one  another"  (4:11).  In  the 
glorious  light  of  these  affirmations  we  can  explore  more 
fully  the  meaning  of  the  love  of  God  the  Father.  As  we 
focus  on  this  definitive  center  we  cannot  disregard  aspects 
of  God's  nature  and  purpose  which  we  have  already 
outlined.  They  are  not  canceled  out  or  abrogated  but 
remain  as  the  framework  and  background  of  our  present 
discussion. 

Kinds  of  Love 

As  we  seek  to  discover  the  meaning  of  Christian  love, 
it  is  well  to  note  various  kinds  of  love.  In  English  we  use 
the  same  word  whether  we  are  saying  that  we  love  potato 
salad  or  that  we  love  God.  The  Greeks  had  several  words 
for   love.1    Although   they   did  not   use   them   with   the 

1See  Alan  Richardson   (ed.),  A   Theological  Word  Book  of  the  Bible   (New 
York:    Macmillan,   1956),  pages   131-136. 


In  This  Is  Love  139 

precision  and  the  consistent  distinctions  which  later 
scheme  makers  might  wish  to  ascribe  to  these  words,  they 
each  carried  a  primary  emphasis  worth  noting. 

The  word  eros  refers  to  the  love  a  man  and  a  woman 
have  for  each  other.  It  is  marked  by  the  desire  to  possess 
and  enjoy  the  object  of  love.  (Plato  used  it  in  spiritualized 
form  for  the  upward  quest  of  the  soul  toward  the  divine, 
but  even  here  its  quality  is  still  acquisitive.) 

This  love  of  man  and  woman  for  each  other  can  be 
distorted  into  lust.  But  this  is  rightly  recognized  as  the 
prostitution  or  misuse  of  a  power  and  capacity  meant  for 
higher  ends.  It  can  be  distorted  into  romantic  sentiment, 
as  is  the  case  with  much  popular  entertainment.  This  has 
been  aptly  called  "cardiac-respiratory  love"  because  it 
centers  in  the  flutterings  of  the  heart  and  the  catching  of 
the  breath.  Eros  love  should  be  seen  as  God's  great  gift  to 
men  for  the  enrichment  of  personality  by  the  bonds  of 
intimate  union;  for  the  propagation  and  nurture  of  God's 
children  in  family  life;  and  for  the  quickening  of  all  levels 
of  human  capacity.  Love  as  eros  is  of  God. 

A  second  kind  is  philia,  the  love  of  a  man  for  his 
neighbor.  Related  words  are  Philadelphia,  love  between 
brothers,  sisters;  and  philanthropia,  humanity  or  kindness. 
This  level  of  love  is  less  possessive  or  exclusive  than  eros, 
and  less  related  to  physical  desire.  It  refers  to  the 
mutuality  which  is  the  basis  of  friendship  and  brotherhood 
and  the  foundation  of  common  life.  It  is  defined  by  the 
golden  rule  but  it  can  be  distorted  into  selfish  agreements 
— "You  scratch  my  back,  and  I'll  scratch  yours."  It  can 
also  be  lifted  to  high  levels  of  mutuality  and  ordered 
justice.  It  can  be  debased  into  a  narrow  tribalism  and 
thus  become  a  barrier  to  the  wider  world  community — 
"God  bless  me  and  my  wife;  my  son  John  and  his  wife; 
us  four  and  no  more."   The  Greek  word  storge  referred 


140  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

especially  to  family  affection.  Philia  or  neighbor  love  is 
also  of  God  and  it  is  enjoined  in  the  second  great  com- 
mandment: "You  shall  love  your  neighbor  as  yourself" 
(Mark  12:31). 

In  the  New  Testament  a  new  word  was  used  for 
Christian  love:  agape.  It  was  a  Greek  word  formerly  with 
less  color  and  less  sharp  definition  than  either  eros  or 
philia.  Into  its  former  neutrality  the  Christians  poured 
all  the  wealth  of  meaning  wThich  Christ  had  shown  them 
of  divine  love.  "By  this  we  know  love  [agape],  that  he 
laid  down  his  life  for  us"  (1  John  3:16).  "In  this  is  love 
[agape];  not  that  we  loved  God  but  that  he  loved  us" 
(4:10).  This  divine  love  is  free  and  spontaneous.  It  is  not 
a  sentiment  evoked  primarily  by  the  winsome  qualities 
of  the  loved  one.  It  is  rather  the  free  overflowing  desire 
of  the  loving  one  to  bestow  affection  and  benefits  on  the 
loved  one.  It  is  universal  love  which  is  concerned  with  all 
men,  sending  rain  and  sunshine  upon  the  just  and  the 
unjust,  and  reaching  out  in  love  to  friends  and  to  enemies 
as  well. 

Recent  theological  literature  has  discovered  afresh 
what  is  implicit  in  the  events  and  the  very  vocabulary  of 
the  New  Testament.  A  new  kind  of  love  was  disclosed 
in  the  advent  of  Christ  and  this  is  the  disclosure  of  the 
nature  of  God.  "In  this  is  love."  "God  is  love."  "Love 
is  of  God."  It  is  agape  love  which  marks  God  as  our 
Father.  It  is  expressed  in  his  creation  of  the  world  and 
of  man.  It  is  expressed  in  his  providential  administration 
of  the  natural  and  moral  orders.  It  is  expressed  in  his 
severity  and  holiness  by  which  he  requires  righteousness 
and  exercises  judgment  against  sin.  These  aspects  of  God's 
nature  and  fatherhood  are  outlined  for  us  in  the  Old 
Testament  and  form  the  background  of  the  fuller  and 
definitive  view  of  God  and  his  love  in  the  New  Testament. 


In  This  Is  Love  141 

In  the  light  of  his  work  of  redemption  in  Christ  we  can 
see  that  God's  love  is  indeed  a  "many-splendored"  thing. 

Marks  of  God's  Love 

God's  love  as  it  has  been  revealed  to  man  and  appre- 
hended by  him  down  through  the  centuries  shows  many 
well-defined  characteristics.  It  is  to  some  of  these  that  we 
now  give  attention. 

God's  Love  Is  a  Pursuant  Love 

One  distinctive  feature  of  God  portrayed  in  the  Bible, 
as  we  have  already  seen,  is  his  initiative.  He  is  not  a  passive 
being  waiting  for  men  to  seek  him  out.  He  is  the  great 
intruder  and  aggressor  who  seeks  men  out — "Adam,  where 
are  you?"  He  is  not  a  low-pressure  center  drawing  breezes 
and  fronts  to  where  he  is.  He  is  a  high-pressure  center 
pushing  his  own  front  toward  man.  He  causes  disturbances 
and  changes  the  weather  as  he  presses  ever  in  upon  man. 
This  is  the  picture  we  get  from  the  psalmist  (Psalm  139:7): 

"Whither  shall  I  go  from  thy  Spirit? 

Or  whither  shall  I  flee  from  thy  presence?" 

This    divine    initiative    can    appear    quite    disconcerting 
indeed,  as  Job  put  it  in  a  vivid  figure   (7:19): 

'How  long  wilt  thou  not  look  away  from  me, 

nor  let  me  alone  till  I  swallow  down  my  spittle?" 

But  it  is  also  the  ground  of  peace  which  passes  under- 
standing. "How  precious  to  me  are  thy  thoughts,  O  God!' 
(Psalm  139:17).  It  is  the  ground,  as  well,  of  God's 
immanence  and  relevance  to  the  world.  He  is  involved  in 
the  world  not  because  of  mechanical  entanglement  but 
because  of  his  own  outreaching  love. 

This  conception  of  God's  pursuing  love  was  made 
vivid  to  us  forever  by  the  matchless  parables  of  Jesus.    In 


142  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

Luke  15  we  have  three  of  them:  the  lost  sheep,  the  lost 
coin,  and  the  prodigal  son.  In  them  all  we  can  note  the 
great  concern  for  the  lost  one  even  though  others  are 
already  in  safekeeping.  In  the  case  of  the  son  this  is  in 
a  one-to-one  proportion;  for  the  coin  it  is  in  a  one-to-nine 
proportion;  for  the  sheep  it  is  in  a  one-to-ninety-nine 
proportion.  Special  joy  is  manifest  on  earth  and  in  heaven 
when  such  a  lost  one  is  found.  In  the  case  of  the  sheep 
and  the  coin  there  is  aggressive  pursuit  until  found.  In 
the  case  of  the  son  the  pursuant  love  faces  independence 
and  freedom.  It  is  shown,  therefore,  by  the  father's 
running  out  to  welcome  the  returning  prodigal  and  in 
the  free  and  generous  forgiveness  and  restoration  he 
bestows  upon  him. 

Another  story,  the  parable  of  the  vineyard,  given  in 
each  of  the  synoptic  gospels  (Matthew  21:33-46;  Mark 
12:1-11;  Luke  20:9,  16),  is  an  expansion  of  a  similar  story 
in  Isaiah  (5:1-7)  showing  more  patience  and  a  more 
pursuant  love.  It  also  applies  the  parable  to  Israel's  leaders 
and  includes  the  crowning  effort  of  the  vineyard  owner 
toward  its  redemption:  "He  had  still  one  other,  a  beloved 
son;  finally  he  sent  him  to  them,  saying,  'They  will  respect 
my  son.'  .  .  .  And  they  took  him  and  killed  him,  and 
cast  him  out  of  the  vineyard"  (Mark  12:6,  8).  Here  God's 
whole  cumulative  effort  for  the  world's  salvation  is  set 
forth.  It  was  brought  to  costly  climax  in  the  mission  of 
Jesus  Christ.  'Tor  the  Son  of  man  came  to  seek  and  to 
save  that  which  was  lost"  (Luke  19:10).  The  New  Testa- 
ment writers  were  clear  in  the  inference  that  this  work  of 
Christ  stemmed  from  the  pursuant  love  of  God.  God, 
who  spoke  of  old  to  our  fathers  by  the  prophets,  has  in 
these  last  days  spoken  to  us  by  a  Son  (Hebrews  1:1,  2). 
"God  shows  his  love  for  us  in  that  while  we  were  yet 
sinners  Christ  died  for  us"  (Romans  5:8).  "In  this  is  love." 


In  This  Is  Love  143 

Francis  Thompson's  The  Hound  of  Heaven  is  a 
literary  classic  on  this  same  theme.  A  human  soul  has  fled 
from  God,  hidden  from  him,  evaded  him. 

I  fled  Him,  down  the  nights  and  down  the  days; 

I  fled  Him,  down  the  arches  of  the  years; 
I  fled  Him,   down  the   labyrinthine  ways 

Of  my  own  mind;  and  in  the  midst  of  tears 
I  hid  from  Him. 

But  'Tear  wist  not  to  evade  as  Love  wist  to  pursue."  God 
pursues  the  soul  through  all  the  night  and  days,  through 
tears  and  laughter,  through  evasions  and  disappointments 
until  at  last  the  soul  learns  that  all  it  blindly  sought  is  kept 
for  it  in  God.   "In  this  is  love." 

In  all  these  pictures  we  see  the  initiative  and  in- 
escapable outreach  of  God's  love.  We  see  it  also  as 
focused  on  his  individual  children.  All  Jesus  had  to  teach 
about  God's  minute  care  gives  particular  focus  to  his 
fatherly  love.  The  lost  sheep,  coin,  and  son  (Luke  15); 
the  sparrow's  fall  and  the  numbered  hairs  of  our  heads 
(Matthew  10:29,  30);  the  calling  of  the  sheep  by  name 
(John  10:3);  and  the  concern  for  the  little  ones  (Matthew 
18:6,  10,  14)  and  the  least  (Matthew  25:40,  45)— all  of 
these  statements  of  Jesus  make  overwhelmingly  personal 
God's  pursuant  love  and  concern  for  his  children. 

God's  Love  Is  a  Persuading  Love 

God's  pursuant  love  can  be  a  frightening  thing.  It  is 
especially  so  when  focused  on  each  individual  person,  as 
we  have  seen,  and  when  it  is  seen  as  having  behind  it  all 
the  weight  of  God's  might  and  inescapable  purpose.  The 
thrust  of  such  pressure  is  infinitely  greater  than  stepping 
up  the  ordinary  air  pressure  of  fifteen  pounds  per  square 
inch  to  the  one  thousand  one  hundred  twenty-six  pounds 
of  water  pressure  per  square  inch  at  the  Kitimat  power 


144  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

plant  in  British  Columbia!2  Many  pictures  of  God's 
terrible  sovereignty  leave  us  in  a  crushing  and  sunken 
mood,  whether  we  think  of  double  and  arbitrary  pre- 
destination of  some  to  eternal  perdition  and  others  to 
eternal  bliss,  or  of  God's  inscrutable  decrees,  or  of  the 
gentler  form  of  God's  pursuant  love  outlined  above. 

There  is  another  aspect  of  his  character  throughout 
the  Bible.  Even  though  Adam  and  Eve  were  driven  from 
Eden,  it  was  after  a  conversation  in  which  Adam  was 
allowed  the  honor  of  being  addressable.  Severe  as  the 
prophets  were  in  their  denunciations,  they  could  also 
plead  in  God's  name:  "Come  now,  let  us  reason  together" 
(Isaiah  1:18).  Even  so  strong  a  "Calvinist"  as  Paul  can 
say,  "How  are  they  to  hear  without  a  preacher?"  (Romans 
10:14).  Jesus'  whole  approach  to  men  was  through 
persuasion.  "Come  unto  me"  was  his  open  invitation. 
"He  that  hath  ears  to  hear,  let  him  hear"  was  his  constant 
refrain.  He  regarded  the  coercive  pressures  of  signs  and 
political  power  as  temptations  of  Satan,  as  he  pursued  his 
messianic  ministry.  The  most  explicit  instance  of  God's 
working  by  persuasion  is  implied  in  Revelation  3:20: 
"Behold,  I  stand  at  the  door  and  knock;  if  any  one  hears 
my  voice  and  opens  the  door,  I  will  come  in  to  him  and 
eat  with  him,  and  he  with  me." 

All  the  persistent  weight  of  God's  omnipotence  and 
all  the  pressure  of  his  pursuant  love  are  halted  at  the 
threshold  of  human  personality.  God  is  not  like  a  big 
bad  wolf  threatening  to  blow  one's  house  in.  He  is  a 
gentleman  who  stands  with  hat  in  hand  awaiting  a  free 
answer  from  man.  God  works  with  men  in  a  manner 
similar  to  the  way  Plato  describes  the  work  of  an  artist. 
An  artist  persuades  his  material,  seeking  to  evoke  beauty 


2  See  National  Geographic  Magazine,  September  1956,  page  378. 


In  This  Is  Love  145 

from  his  medium  in  terms  of  the  character  of  the  material. 
An  artist  must  do  this  because  he  has  not  created  the 
material.  God,  though  he  has  created  men,  works  by 
persuasion  because  of  his  love.  It  is  the  nature  of  love  to 
confer  freedom  and  to  elicit  a  free  response.  God  does 
not  desire  a  bludgeoned  and  abject  response  from  his 
children.  What  he  desires  most  is  the  free  response  to 
his  love,  the  free  appreciation  of  his  goodness,  and  the 
free  choice  of  his  will.  It  is  the  real  nature  of  love  and 
goodness,  of  holiness  and  truth  to  be  discerned  only  in  such 
an  uncoerced  relationship. 

To  be  sure,  God  has  many  prior  rights  and  lays  on 
men  his  absolute  claims.  Moreover,  he  presumably  has 
a  thousand  ways  of  running  circles  around  us  both  by 
outward  circumstance  and  by  inward  promptings.  But 
these  are  exercises  of  his  prevenient,  or  forehanded,  grace 
and  expressions  of  his  persuasive  love.  God  still  respects 
freedom.  Men  often  are  reluctant  to  exercise  their 
freedom.  Rather  than  cherishing  it  they  seek  to  evade  its 
responsibilities.  They  desire  to  be  governed  by  external 
authorities  which  will  make  their  choices  for  them.  They 
seek  to  avoid  the  perils  of  freedom  by  sliding  into  cozy 
routines  and  new  forms  of  bondage.  But  God's  love  is 
such  that  he  administers  an  order  of  freedom  wherein 
alone  men  can  grow  into  responsible  sonship. 

God's  Love  Is  a  Suffering  Love 

We  can  see  clearly  implied  in  the  above  discussion  that 
God  is,  so  to  speak,  vulnerable  to  man's  rejection.  If  he 
grants  man  freedom  and  if  his  purpose  is  to  work  through 
persuasion  we  have  the  basis  for  a  strain  between  what 
God  is  seeking  in  man  and  what  man  gives  him  in  response. 
Our  discussion  of  the  atonement  indicated  that  the  sin  of 
man  aroused  God's  severity  and  wrath  and  also  evoked  his 


146  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

sympathy  and  love.    This  is  the  divine  counterpart  of 
Calvary. 

There  are  some  elements  in  traditional  Christian 
belief  which  oppose  or  minimize  this  view  of  God. 
Classical  theology  spoke  much  about  God's  ''impassibility" 
— his  being  removed  from  the  capacity  for  suffering.  This 
was  done  on  the  basis  of  certain  philosophical  difficulties. 
But  the  plain  implications  of  the  Bible  are  strongly  in 
its  favor.  There  has  been  a  more  familiar  tendency  to 
minimize  God's  suffering  love  by  drawing  a  sharp  line 
between  the  function  of  God  and  of  Christ  in  atonement 
theories.  God  is  regarded  as  the  righteous  judge  who  is 
offended  by  man's  sin  and  can  only  oppose  it  with  his 
wrath.  Christ  is  regarded  as  the  one  whose  death  on  the 
cross  gives  satisfaction  to  God's  righteousness  and  thus 
makes  forgiveness  possible. 

That  there  is  such  tension,  in  the  presence  of  sin,  has 
already  been  made  clear.  But  the  tension  does  not  lie 
primarily  between  the  Father  and  the  Son.  It  lies  within 
the  heart  of  the  Father  as  we  see  it  within  the  heart  of  the 
Son.  In  ways  perhaps  beyond  our  understanding  but 
clearly  discerned  by  our  hearts,  we  see  a  great  price  paid 
for  our  redemption.  Christ  suffered  on  the  cross  and  died 
for  our  sins.  But  in  doing  so  he  opened  a  window  into 
the  very  heart  of  God.  He  went  to  Calvary  in  response  to 
the  redemptive  will  of  God.  He  is  the  one  "whom  God 
put  forward  as  an  expiation  by  his  blood,  to  be  received 
by  faith"  (Romans  3:25).  "In  this  is  love,  not  that  we 
loved  God  but  that  he  loved  us  and  sent  his  Son  to  be 
the  expiation  for  our  sins"  (1  John  4:10).  "God  was  in 
Christ  reconciling  the  world  to  himself,  not  counting  their 
trespasses  against  them"  (2  Corinthians  5:19).  "For  God 
so  loved  the  world  that  he  gave  his  only  Son"  (John 
3:16). 


In  This  Is  Love  147 

The  Relevance  of  Agape  Love 

It  should  be  noted  again  that  a  special  peril  attaches 
to  all  discussion  of  relevance  in  religious  and  ethical 
matters.  It  is  the  peril  that  the  problems  we  face  become, 
in  themselves,  the  standard  of  judgment.  Our  minds  are 
drawn  away  from  God  as  the  ultimate  object  of  devotion 
and  away  from  his  perfect  will  as  the  ultimate  criterion 
of  action. 

Love  Is  Its  Own  Norm 

If  love  suffers  in  the  presence  of  sin,  sin  may  be  the 
occasion  of  the  suffering  but  it  does  not  "cause"  the 
suffering.  Agape  love  is  free  and  spontaneous.  Those  who 
espouse  the  way  of  agape  love  because  it  "works"  are  then 
tempted  to  disavow  it  when  it  appears  to  fail.  But  in  the 
nature  of  love,  it  loves  on  into  suffering.  Love  goes  to 
the  uttermost  in  suffering  and  lasts  on  still.  Love  is 
forever.  It  does  not  seek  to  validate  itself  by  its  relevance. 
The  ethic  of  love  is  not  a  calculated  ethic.  For  that  matter, 
no  ethical  system  is  purely  utilitarian.  There  is  always  an 
honor  code  in  the  picture  somewhere.  This  is  clear  enough 
when  a  pacifist  refrains  from  fighting,  because  he  is 
committed  to  the  way  of  suffering  love.  It  is  also  true  when 
an  army  declares,  "It  is  better  to  die  fighting  than  to  live 
on  in  slavery;  better  to  die  on  our  feet  than  to  live  on  our 
knees."  In  both  instances  action  is  based  ultimately  on 
what  is  regarded  as  right  rather  than  on  what  is  relevant. 

It  is  the  peculiar  merit  of  the  Christian  love  ethic  that 
it  does  not  promise  success.  It  goes  ahead  with  its  eyes 
open,  anticipating  persecution,  suffering,  and  death.  (One 
may  note,  in  contrast,  the  peculiar  deceptiveness  of  mili- 
tary power.  It  promises  a  success  which  it  can  never 
guarantee  and  which  it  seldom  achieves.)  Agape  love  is 
noncalculating  and  self-giving.    It  mirrors  the  boundless 


148  Studies  in  Christian  Belie) 

and  free  grace  of  God.  Any  consideration  of  its  relevance 
is  within  the  framework  of  God's  prevenient  grace.  "In 
this  is  love,  not  that  we  loved  God  but  that  he  loved  us 
and  sent  his  Son  to  be  the  expiation  for  our  sins"  (1  John 
4:10).  God's  love  has  done  for  us  what  we  cannot  do  for 
ourselves.  We  shall  always  be  forgiven  sinners  and 
unprofitable  servants. 

God's  agape  love  does,  however,  have  relevance  to 
human  behavior.  This  is  clear  throughout  the  New 
Testament.  Jesus  sets  it  up  as  the  standard:  "You,  there- 
fore, must  be  perfect,  as  your  heavenly  Father  is  perfect" 
(Matthew  5:48).  Paul's  hymn  to  love  is  not  merely  for 
adoration  but  also  for  exhortation:  "Make  love  your  aim" 
(1  Corinthians  14:1).  John  sharpens  the  claim  by  explicit 
appeal.  "By  this  we  know  love,  that  he  laid  down  his  life 
for  us;  and  we  ought  to  lay  down  our  lives  for  the  brethren" 
(1  John  3:16).  "Beloved,  if  God  so  loved  us,  we  also  ought 
to  love  one  another"    (1  John  4:11). 

Agape  Love  and  Other  Virtues 

There  is  a  current  tendency  to  draw  such  a  sharp  line 
between  divine  love  and  human  love  that  the  claim  and 
the  relevance  of  divine  love  are  obscured  and  weakened. 
This  may  be  due  in  part  to  the  penetrating  but  somewhat 
one-sided  study  by  Anders  Nygren,  Agape  and  Eros.  It  is 
due  in  part  to  the  easy  way  in  which  the  Sermon  on  the 
Mount  has  been  commended  as  a  blueprint  and  guarantee 
of  success  in  business  and  in  politics.  Some  social-gospel 
thinking  has  made  too  easy  an  identification  between  given 
social  programs  and  the  kingdom  of  God.  There  has  also 
been  too  easy  an  identification  between  ordinary  mutuality 
and  agape  love.  A  deepening  critique  was  overdue  and 
we  should  welcome  its  corrective  strictures.  But  there  is 
a  subtle  evasion  of  the  claims  of  agape  love  by  calling  it 


In  This  Is  Love  149 

an  "impossible  ideal"3  or  by  drawing  absolute  distinctions 
between  agape  and  eros  types  of  love.  The  same  danger 
lies  in  the  interpretation  of  "loving  one's  neighbor  as 
oneself  in  terms  of  loving  one's  neighbor  instead  of 
oneself."4 

The  Bible  does  not  follow  sharp  distinctions  between 
human  and  divine  love,  but  rather  lays  the  claims  of 
agape  upon  men  directly  from  the  divine  example.  Loving 
of  the  enemy  and  impartial  concern  for  the  just  and  the 
unjust  are  enjoined  in  these  words:  "You,  therefore,  must 
be  perfect,  as  your  heavenly  Father  is  perfect"  (Matthew 
5:48).  "He  laid  down  his  life  for  us;  and  we  ought  to 
lay  down  our  lives  for  the  brethren"  (1  John  3:16).  The 
parables  of  the  good  Samaritan  (Luke  10:29-37)  and  the 
last  judgment  (Matthew  25:31-46)  indicate  that  our  faith- 
ful exercise  of  agape  love  is  a  matter  of  eternal  life  and 
death. 

Instead  of  making  an  absolute  distinction  between 
agape  love  and  other  virtues,  it  is  true  to  Christian  belief 
to  see  how  it  should  interfuse  other  virtues.  In  the  case 
of  the  love  of  man  and  woman,  eros  love  is  not  sufficient 
in  itself.  Marriage  counselors  frequently  call  attention 
to  the  frustrations  involved  when  persons  are  inconsiderate 
of  their  partners  in  marriage  relationships.  It  is  at  its 
best  only  when  it  is  lifted  to  the  level  of  agape  love.  That 
does  not  eliminate  its  eros  qualities  but  lifts  them  toward 
a  sacramental  level.  Paul's  exhortation  is  characteristic  of 
the  New  Testament:  "Husbands,  love  your  wives,  as  Christ 


3  See  Reinhold  Niebuhr's  An  Interpretation  of  Christian  Ethics  (New  York: 
Harper,  1935),  chapter  IV,  "The  Relevance  of  an  Impossible  Ethical  Ideal." 
See  also  John  H.  Yoder's  Reinhold  Niebuhr  and  Christian  Pacifism,  a  pamphlet 
published  in  Holland  in   1954,  the  Heerwegen  series. 

*  See  Daniel  Day  Williams,  What  Present-Day  Theologians  Are  Thinking 
(New  York:    Harper,  1952).    Chapter  III  is  an  excellent  review  of  this  problem. 


150  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

loved  the  church  and  gave  himself  up  for  her"  (Ephesians 
5:25).6 

The  same  is  true  of  the  mutual  love  of  a  man  for  his 
neighbor.  It  is  insufficient  by  itself,  especially  when  under 
strain  by  insult  or  defection.  That  is  precisely  the  point  of 
1  Corinthians  13.  The  strains  of  congregational  life  can 
be  overcome  only  as  agape  love  becomes  both  the  motive 
and  the  pattern  of  the  members'  lives  together.  The  same 
is  true  among  the  Ephesians:  "Be  kind  to  one  another, 
tenderhearted,  forgiving  one  another,  as  God  in  Christ 
forgave  you"  (4:32).  Similarly  agape  love  and  justice 
should  not  be  unduly  separated  and  set  in  contradiction 
to  each  other.  This  is  done  often  in  our  thought  about 
God.  For  analysis  purposes  we  may  distinguish  them  but 
they  are  one  in  God. 

Justice  should  not  be  regarded  as  "love's  strange 
work"  or  as  a  mere  concession  to  sin  whereby  various 
egoisms  may  be  balanced  against  each  other.6  Justice 
should  be  regarded  as  the  structure  of  agape  love.  Justice 
is  not  merely  "preparatory  for  love"7  but  finds  its  fullness 
in  love.  Christ  came  not  to  abolish  the  law  but  to  fulfill 
it  (Matthew  5:17).  "Love  is  the  fulfilling  of  the  law" 
(Romans  13:10).  Justice  is  seen  in  unduly  restricted 
terms,  however,  if  it  is  only  equal  justice  or  even 
proportional  justice.  There  is  in  the  Bible  what  Paul 
Tillich  calls  transforming  or  creative  justice.8  This  goes 
beyond  a  rigid  concept  of  equalitarian  justice  and  is 
flexible  enough  to  deal  with  each  individual  need.    It  is 

5  It    is    significant    that    in    the    Greek    Paul    uses    the    agape"   verb   for   this 
marriage   relationship. 

6Reinhold    Niebuhr,    An    Interpretation    of    Christian    Ethics    (New    York: 
Harper,  1935),  pages  140,  189. 

7  Nels    Ferre,    The    Christian    Understanding   of   God    (New   York:     Harper, 
1951),  page  227. 

8  Love,    Power,    and   Justice    (New    York:     Oxford    University    Press,    1954), 
pages  64-66.  ' 


In  This  Is  Love  151 

creative  enough  to  forgive  and  to  transform.  Even  in 
human  affairs  such  flexibility  is  necessary  and,  rather  than 
implying  a  breakdown  of  justice,  it  lifts  justice  to  a  high- 
minded  level.  In  such  ways  agape  love  is  greatly  relevant 
to  human  behavior  and  to  other  virtues. 

The  Triumph  of  Agape  Love 

The  problem  of  universal  salvation  belongs  properly 
to  a  later  chapter.  But  it  can  be  given  logical  consideration 
here.  Belief  in  this  doctrine  stems  from  different  premises: 
from  a  belief  in  universal  and  inherent  goodness  of  all 
men;  from  a  corporate  and  racial  intepretation  of  the 
incarnation  and  the  atonement;  from  cheaply  sentimen- 
talizing God's  forgiving  mercy;  from  exaggerating  God's 
sovereignty  without  moral  reference.  A  current  form  of 
the  doctrine  grows  out  of  stress  upon  God's  victorious  love. 
It  is  a  view  of  special  appeal  to  those  who  believe  in  the 
way  of  suffering  love  as  the  way  to  deal  with  enemies  and 
as  the  way  of  overcoming  evil  with  good.9  This  view  does 
not  rule  out  punishment  or  the  sufferings  of  hell.  It  stresses 
the  reality  of  moral  freedom  and  the  need  for  repentance. 
But  it  argues  that  God's  love  is  sovereign  and  has  all 
eternity  to  work  in.  It  argues  that  one  permanently  lost 
soul  is  the  defeat  of  God's  love,  that  heaven  would  not  be 
heaven  as  long  as  hell  remains.  It  argues  that  the  problem 
of  evil  would  not  be  solved  without  the  total  victory  of 
God's  love.  It  argues  that  the  larger  logic  of  God's  love 
must  lead  one  to  this  belief  in  universal  salvation. 

It  must  be  admitted  that  this  line  of  thought  has  a 
deep  appeal  to  one's  sympathy  and  Christian  love.  It 
appears  clear  also  that  God's  own  desire  is  for  all  men  to 
be  saved,  "not  wishing  that  any  should  perish,  but  that 

»  See  H.  H.  Farmer,  God  and  Men  (New  York:    Abingdon-Cokesbury,  1947), 
pages  168-177;  see  also  Nels  F.  S.  Ferre,  op.  cit.,  chapter  nine. 


152  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

all  should  reach  repentance"  (2  Peter  3:9).  In  connection 
with  God's  shepherdlike  love  Jesus  himself  said,  "It  is  not 
the  will  of  my  Father  who  is  in  heaven  that  one  of  these 
little  ones  should  perish"  (Matthew  18:14).  It  is  also 
clear  that  the  concern  of  Calvary  and  of  Christ's  great 
missionary  commission  are  for  everyone — for  the  last, 
the  least,  and  the  lost.  Anyone  who  in  the  name  of  God's 
righteousness  takes  pleasure  in  the  punishment  of  the 
wicked  has  not  understood  the  loving  heart  of  God.  The 
word  of  judgment  is  Alas!  not  Aha!  Why  not  then 
subscribe  eagerly  to  the  belief  in  universal  salvation? 

Difficulties  With   Universalism 

First,  the  Bible  pictures  constantly  two  ways  of  life 
and  destiny.  There  is  a  wide  difference  between  being 
saved  and  being  lost.  The  difference  is  pictured  variously 
as  darkness  against  light,  as  folly  against  wisdom,  as  a  broad 
way  against  a  narrow  way,  as  wickedness  against  righteous- 
ness, as  death  against  life.  No  one  is  more  explicit  on 
these  distinctions  than  Jesus  himself.  "And  if  your  eye 
causes  you  to  sin,  pluck  it  out;  it  is  better  for  you  to  enter 
the  kingdom  of  God  with  one  eye  than  with  two  eyes  to 
be  thrown  into  hell,  where  their  worm  does  not  die,  and 
the  fire  is  not  quenched"  (Mark  9:47,  48).  "Truly,  I  say 
to  you,  as  you  did  it  not  to  one  of  the  least  of  these,  you 
did  it  not  to  me.  And  they  will  go  away  into  eternal 
punishment,  but  the  righteous  into  eternal  life"  (Matthew 
25:45,  46). 

Secondly,  the  Bible  lays  constant  emphasis  on  the 
tremendous  importance  of  what  men  do  here  and  now  in 
this  world  and  on  its  implications  for  their  destiny  in  the 
next.  "Behold,  now  is  the  acceptable  time;  behold,  now 
is  the  day  of  salvation"  is  a  characteristic  of  the  New 
Testament  mood  (2  Corinthians  6:2).  The  critical  nature 


In  This  Is  Love  153 

of  decisions  and  of  response  to  encounters  and  visitations 
is  a  recurrent  emphasis  from  Abraham's  entertaining 
angels  unawares  (Genesis  18:1-8)  or  Moses'  response  to 
the  burning  bush  (Exodus  3)  to  the  advent  of  Christ  in 
the  fullness  of  time  (Galatians  4:4)  and  to  the  rejection  of 
Christ's  overtures  to  Jerusalem.  Crisis  and  destiny  are 
gathered  up  in  the  concept  of  kairos  time,  the  concept  of 
God's  visitations  and  appointments.  Judgment  is  joyous 
or  sad  according  to  the  outcome.  "Would  that  even  today 
you  knew  the  things  that  make  for  peace!  But  now  they 
are  hid  from  your  eyes  .  .  .  because  you  did  not  know 
the  time  of  your  visitation"  (Luke  19:42,  44).  This  note 
of  urgency  and  destiny  is  set  forth  in  the  law  of  the 
harvest:  "Whatever  a  man  sows,  that  he  will  also  reap" 

(Galatians  6:7). 

The  consequences  of  this  are  especially  critical  in 
connection  with  the  Holy  Spirit.  Rejection  of  his 
promptings  is  regarded  by  Jesus  as  blasphemy  and  as 
unforgivable  because  the  power  to  repent  is  dulled  (Mark 
3:28-30).  This  is  according  to  the  law  of  habit  and  fixity 
of  character  which  we  all  can  observe.  It  may  be  hard  to 
say  when  the  point  of  no  return  is  passed,  but  it  is  clear 
that  the  line  moves  toward  permanence.  The  time  comes 
when  "it  is  impossible  to  restore  again  to  repentance  those 
who  have  once  been  enlightened"  (Hebrews  6:4).  All  this 
is  set  forth  as  a  matter  of  grim  fact  and  not  as  a 
psychological  device  to  evoke  action.  All  of  the  Biblical 
urgency  is  based  on  the  assumption  that  our  future  destiny 
is  fixed  by  our  life  in  this  world.  The  expectation  of 
continued  flexibility  beyond  death  is  speculative  and  has 
practically  no  warrant  from  the  Bible  or  from  experience. 

Thirdly,  the  certainty  of  universal  salvation  goes 
beyond  the  implications  of  real  freedom.  This,  of  course, 
is  somewhat  recognized  by  those  who  espouse  universal 


154  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

salvation.  But,  as  it  has  been  well  pointed  out,  there  is  a 
curious  confusion  between  sovereign  love  and  sovereign 
power  when  it  is  assumed  that  God's  love  will  finally  wear 
down  the  sinner  and  win  him  over.  "It  is  the  very  nature 
of  love  to  invite,  not  coerce."  It  is  precisely  the  nature  of 
love  to  respect  real  freedom  to  the  very  end.10 

Finally,  the  doctrine  of  universal  salvation  is  a 
speculative  and  short-cut  solution  to  the  problem  of  evil. 
Soper  calls  it  a  "premature"  solution,11  sidestepping  the 
recurring  words  of  Jesus  about  the  broad  road  to  destruc- 
tion and  the  narrow  road  to  life,  about  the  many  who  are 
called  and  the  few  who  are  chosen.  We  saw  earlier  how 
complicated  and  baffling  the  problem  of  evil  is.  It  is 
perplexing  at  the  practical  and  the  philosophical  levels.  It 
is  a  problem  so  great  that  Christians  have  always  looked  to 
God  and  to  the  world  beyond  for  some  basis  of  hope.  For 
some  this  has  been  primarily  in  terms  of  justice  and  the 
vindication  of  righteousness.  Many  of  these  have  accepted 
this  view  lightly  or  have  regarded  the  punishment  of  the 
wicked  with  relish.  But,  it  is  equally  hasty  to  assume  the 
logical  necessity  of  love's  defeat  if  one  person  remains  a 
problem  child.  Hordern  points  out  that  this  "makes  evil 
stronger  than  good";  it  would  give  undue  "power  to  one 
cantankerous  sadist."  We  may  continually  hope  for  the 
victory  of  God's  love.  "But  we  have  no  reason  for 
dogmatically  insisting  that  it  must  come  about  or  else  the 
whole  process  has  been  a  failure."12  The  problem  of  evil 
has  no  easy  solution.    We  shall  have  to  trust  in  the  love 


10  See  David  Wesley  Soper,  Major  Voices  in  American  Theology  (Philadelphia: 
Westminster  Press,  1953),  page  91.  Also,  L.  Harold  DeWolf,  A  Theology  of  the 
Living  Church  (New  York:    Harper,  1953),  page  286. 

11  Op.  cit.,  page  88. 

12  William  Hordern,  "The  Theology  of  Nels  FerreV'  in  The  Pastor  (Nashville: 
Methodist  Publishing  House,  February  1956),  Volume  XIX,  page  12. 


In  This  Is  Love  155 

of    God    that    his    judgments    are    true    and    righteous 
altogether. 

Meanwhile,  we  may  accept  this  rule  of  thumb: 
"Always  think  of  yourself  as  capable  of  falling  into 
alienation  from  God,  no  matter  how  firm  you  feel  in  the 
faith;  think  of  your  neighbor  as  capable  of  eternal 
blessedness,  no  matter  how  depraved  or  indifferent  he 
may  seem.  This  does  not  dispel  the  perplexities  that 
enshroud  our  final  destiny,  but  it  assumes  an  attitude  that 
leads  toward  clear  light."13 


13  Walter  Marshall  Horton,  Christian   Theology    (New  York:    Harper,  1955), 
page  270. 


CHAPTER  NINE 


The  Fullness  of  the  Godhead 


THE  TRINITARIAN   CONCEPTION   OF  GOD  IS  DECLARED  SIMPLY 

in  the  familiar  hymn  phrase:  "God  in  three  persons, 
blessed  Trinity."  More  explicitly  the  idea  is  that  the 
fullness  of  the  Godhead  is  one  in  substance  and  threefold 
in  persons.  It  is  a  conception  tied  up  with  great  amounts 
of  confusion  and  controversy  which  make  it  difficult  to 
explore  it  on  its  theological  and  religious  merits.  Let  us 
attempt,  however,  to  understand  its  meaning  at  the  time 
it  was  formulated  (at  Nicaea  in  325  and  at  Constantinople 
in  381)  and  to  see  its  significance  for  our  own  belief  today. 
We  shall  have  to  do  this  in  the  face  of  various  ways  which 
people  have  of  minimizing  its  importance. 

Some  people  minimize  its  importance  by  saying  that 
it  is  just  a  lot  of  abstruse  terminology  which  we  cannot 
understand.  They  echo  Augustine,  who  said  that  we  say 
"three  persons"  as  a  manner  of  speaking  not  adopted  for 
its  own  sake  but  because  it  is  better  than  saying  nothing 
at  all!  Or  they  point  out  that  the  early  theologians  got 
unduly  wrought  up  over  a  diphthong — over  the  difference 
between  homo  and  homoi!1  To  be  sure,  the  literature  on 
this  matter  originates  in  Greek  and  Latin  and  contains 
technical  philosophical  terms.  It  is  not  our  purpose  to 
explore  the  subtleties  or  to  trace  in  detail  the  various 

1  We  need  only  note  the  difference  a  vowel  can  make  in  critical  instances 
such  as  this  exchange  of  telegrams.  "Did  John  recover?"  It  is  a  matter  of 
life  and  death  whether  the  answer  is  "John  did"  or  "John  died." 


The  Fullness  of  the  Godhead  157 

developments  of  definition  and  thought.  It  is,  however, 
worth  some  effort  to  explore  it. 

Others  regard  trinitarian  thought  as  an  arbitrary 
dogma  to  be  imposed  on  the  Christian's  belief  by 
ecclesiastical  or  political  authority.  Unfortunately  the 
Nicaean  creed  was  used  in  that  way.  Those  not  subscribing 
to  it  were  deposed  from  office,  were  excommunicated  from 
the  church,  and  had  curses  pronounced  against  them.  The 
Emperor  Constantine  imposed  exile  as  an  added  punish- 
ment from  the  political  authority.  Authoritative  creeds 
are  often  misused  in  this  way  rather  than  used  as 
instruments  for  clarifying  true  Christian  belief.  Creedal 
statements  should  be  used  for  the  latter  purpose  alone. 

Some  people  discredit  trinitarian  thought  by  calling 
attention  to  the  personal  bickering  and  party  contentions 
represented  at  Nicaea.  Here  again  the  picture  is  indeed 
gloomy.  There  was  personal  and  official  jealousy  in 
Alexandria,  where  the  problem  arose.  There  was  party 
contention  at  Nicaea  and  more  still  in  the  years  which 
followed.  Constantine  called  the  conference  at  Nicaea 
not  primarily  to  discover  religious  truth  but  to  prevent 
disruption  among  churchmen  from  threatening  disunity 
in  his  empire.  The  later  councils  which  dealt  with  Christ's 
relation  to  God  and  with  Christ's  own  nature  were  a  sad 
series  of  party  struggles  and  were  a  real  betrayal  of  Chris- 
tian attitudes.  They  dealt  nevertheless  with  real  problems 
of  Christian  belief.  Such  problems  needed  to  be  thought 
through  then  as  they  need  to  be  thought  through  today. 
It  appears  that  even  in  the  midst  of  contention  genuine 
Christian  concern  for  true  belief  can  assert  itself,  funda- 
mental issues  can  be  clarified,  and  significant  affirmations 
can  be  set  forth.  It  is  a  needless  confusion  of  the  issue 
to  ascribe  all  such  differences  of  opinion  to  a  contentious 
spirit. 


158  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

The  Deity  of  Christ  and  the  Unity  of  God 

We  should  distinguish  between  a  power  struggle  of 
parties  and  real  problems  of  thought  which  become 
entangled  with  the  struggle.  Whether  such  problems  are 
major  factors  in  the  struggle  or  whether  they  are  merely 
an  excuse  for  the  struggle,  they  should  be  understood  in 
their  own  terms.  The  real  problem  which  disturbed  the 
church  in  Alexandria  and  at  Nicaea  was  the  relationship 
between  Jesus  Christ  and  God.  Two  central  affirmations 
of  Christian  belief  seemed  to  contradict  logical  thought 
and  posed  a  theological  question.  The  one  affirmation  was 
that  Jesus  Christ  is  God.  The  other  affirmation  was  that 
God  is  One.  The  theological  problem  is  how  we  can  think 
of  God's  unity  in  such  a  way  that  we  can  also  think  of 
Christ  as  himself  essentially  God. 

Christ's  Deity  Is  Affirmed 

In  earlier  chapters  we  already  noted  how  the  man 
Christ  Jesus  came  to  be  so  highly  regarded  that  he  was 
believed  to  be  also  divine.  As  a  man  he  was  seen  to  be 
a  humble  carpenter  of  Nazareth;  a  meek  and  lowly  teacher 
of  deep  religious  truth;  a  compassionate  healer  of  men; 
a  stirring  prophet  of  righteousness;  a  claimant  messiah 
calling  men  to  follow  him;  a  suffering  servant  giving  his 
life  as  a  ransom  for  many.  We  saw  how  in  expressing  their 
estimate  of  his  person  the  early  Christians  spoke  of  him 
variously  as  Messiah,  Lamb  of  God,  King  of  the  Jews, 
Savior  of  the  world,  effulgence  of  God's  glory,  the  express 
image  of  God's  substance,  and,  more  commonly,  as  Son 
of  God  and  Lord.  He  was  spoken  of  as  Lord  of  the  Sabbath, 
Lord  of  life,  Lord  of  glory,  Lord  of  lords.  We  saw  how 
in  calling  him  Lord  the  Christians  were  using  the  same 
title  for  him  which  had  become  the  title  for  God  himself, 
especially  among  the  Jewish  Christians.    For  Gentiles  the 


The  Fullness  of  the  Godhead  159 

term  Lord  was  familiar  as  the  title  for  the  divine  heads  of 
the  mystery  cults.2  Jesus  Christ  became  for  them  the  true 
God  and  Savior.  He  was  for  them  not  merely  a  better  Lord 
or  the  best  Lord;  he  was  the  only  Lord. 

There  are  repeated  references  in  the  New  Testament 
which  set  him  in  a  position  subordinate  to  the  Father.  It 
is  all  the  more  impressive  that  at  any  point  he  is  explicitly 
given  equal  status  with  God.  One  instance  is  Thomas's 
address  to  the  risen  Christ:  "My  Lord  and  my  God!" 
(John  20:28).  Another  instance  is  in  Titus  2:13,  which 
speaks  of  "the  glory  of  our  great  God  and  Savior  Jesus 
Christ."  These  references  were  based  on  the  belief  in  the 
incarnation  of  God  himself  in  the  man  Christ  Jesus  (John 
1:14;  Philippians  2:6,  7).  "For  in  him  the  whole  fullness 
of  deity  dwells  bodily"  (Colossians  2:9).  So  high  a  position 
did  Christ  command  in  men's  allegiance  and  so  important 
was  his  deity  for  their  salvation  that  nothing  less  than 
essential  deity  was  regarded  as  an  adequate  statement  of 
his  being.  The  Nicaean  statement  guarded  vigorously 
against  any  essential  subordination  by  such  phrases  as 
"of  the  substance  of  the  Father,  God  of  God,  Light  of 
Light,  very  God  of  very  God,  begotten,  not  made,  being 
of  one  substance  with  the  Father."3  In  our  own  day  the 
same  conviction  is  expressed  in  such  phrases  as  "the  deity 
of  Christ,"  "Jesus  Christ  as  divine  Lord  and  Savior,"  and 
the  specific  affirmation  required  for  membership  in  the 
World  Council  of  Churches,  "our  Lord  Jesus  Christ  as 
God  and  Savior."* 


2  Arthur  C.  McGiffert,  The  God  of  the  Early  Christians  (New  York:  Scribners, 
1924),  pages  41  ff.  It  may  be,  as  this  volume  argues,  that  many  Gentile  Christians 
were  at  first  somewhat  polytheistic  and  added  Jesus  Christ  as  supreme  Lord  of 
lords,  only  later  to  become  more  explicitly  monotheistic.  In  any  case  it  is 
clear  that  the  term  Lord  meant  the  deity  of  Christ. 

8  Philip  Schaff,  Creeds  of  Christendom  (New  York:  Harper,  1884),  Volume 
II,  page  58. 

*W.  A.  Visser't  Hooft  (ed.),  The  First  Assembly  of  the  World  Council  of 
Churches  (New  York:    Harper,  1949),  page  197. 


160  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

God's  Unity  Is  Affirmed 

The  other  affirmation  of  Christian  belief  is  the  unity 
of  God.  One  line  of  approach  to  this  concept  was 
philosophical.  The  world  over,  the  minds  of  men  have 
sought  to  discern  behind  the  diverse  phenomena  of  the 
world  a  basic  principle  of  unity.  This  principle  of  unity 
is  variously  conceived  of  as  the  original  source  of  all  things, 
the  basic  ground  of  all  things,  the  unifying  center  of  all 
things,  the  ultimate  end  of  all  things,  or  the  essence  of  all 
things.  In  polytheistic  cultures,  the  religious  philosophers 
sought  for  an  absolute  principle  or  a  supreme  being  as  the 
ultimate  One.  The  craving  for  unity  is  in  the  human  mind 
and  the  philosophers  therefore  seek  for  the  Whole,  the 
Universal,  the  Eternal,  the  Absolute,  the  Ultimate,  the 
Infinite,  the  Supreme  One.  This  was  then  and  is  today 
a  persistent  problem  of  philosophy.  As  classical  philos- 
ophers were  converted  to  the  Christian  faith,  they  brought 
with  them  both  the  tradition  and  the  skill  for  continuing 
this  concern  for  unity. 

The  other  line  of  approach  to  the  unity  of  God  was 
more  explicitly  religious.  It  centered  in  the  Old  Testament 
writings  with  their  passionate  concern  for  monotheism. 
"You  shall  have  no  other  gods  before  me"  (Exodus  20:3) 
was  the  opening  word  of  the  Decalog.  A  long  struggle 
against  idolatry  was  carried  on  by  the  prophets.  It  was  a 
struggle  marked  by  fanaticism  and  excess  of  zeal  (2  Kings 
10;  Hosea  1:4)  but  it  ended  in  the  complete  elimination 
of  idols  among  the  Jews.  The  keynote  of  their  worship 
was  in  the  declaration  of  the  first  commandment,  "Hear, 
O  Israel:  The  Lord  our  God  is  one  Lord"  (Deuteronomy 
6:4). 

This  passionate  concern  for  God's  unity  was  the 
heritage  of  early  Christians  from  the  Old  Testament,  from 
the  temple  in  Jerusalem,  and  from  the  synagogues  of  the 


The  Fullness  of  the  Godhead  161 

Dispersion.  The  living  God  of  the  Christians  was  more 
than  a  philosophical  principle.  He  was  the  great  I  AM. 
He  was  God  the  Father  Almighty.  Christian  thought  and 
Christian  devotion  began  with  him,  centered  in  him,  and 
ended  in  him. 

The  Holy  Spirit's  Deity  Is  Affirmed 

Another  conviction  marked  Christian  belief — that  the 
experience  of  the  Holy  Spirit  at  Pentecost  and  at  other 
times  was  an  experience  of  God  himself.  This  too  was  very 
God  of  very  God.  The  problem  produced  by  this  belief 
was,  however,  no  different  from  that  produced  by  belief  in 
the  deity  of  Christ.  The  main  discussion,  therefore, 
centered  on  Christ's  relationship  to  God.  Once  that  was 
cleared  up,  the  Holy  Spirit,  as  the  third  person  of  the 
Trinity,  fitted  into  the  same  formula.  The  problem  thus 
was:  How  can  we  think  of  God  in  such  a  way  as  to 
maintain  his  undivided  unity  and  also  fit  into  his  unity 
the  fact  of  Christ  as  God;  and  the  experience  of  the  Holy 
Spirit  as  the  experience  of  God  himself. 

The  Framing  of  the  Trinity 

The  formulation  of  trinitarian  faith  dealt  with  early 
Christian  beliefs  and  attempted  to  clarify  problems  of 
thought  implicit  in  those  beliefs. 

The  Biblical  Background 

The  materials  for  trinitarian  belief  were  in  the  Bible. 
In  the  Old  Testament,  God  was  not  conceived  of  as  a 
static  unity  like  a  tranquil  cosmic  pool.  He  was  a  vivid 
personal  being  of  intense  activity.  He  was  the  living 
God  who  acted  in  creation.  He  acted  as  the  energizer  of 
his  prophets  upon  whom  his  Spirit  fell.  He  acted  also  as 
the  helper,  the  savior,  and  the  redeemer  of  his  wayward 


162  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

and  unfaithful  people.  We  have,  therefore,  a  conception 
of  unity  and  manifoldness  in  the  being  and  the  nature 
of  God. 

In  the  New  Testament  it  was  this  God  who  visited 
his  people  in  the  person  of  his  Son  and  who  was  in  Christ, 
reconciling  the  world  unto  himself.  It  was  this  God  who 
made  his  presence  felt  in  the  Spirit  on  Pentecost.  These 
were  the  Biblical  materials  for  the  trinitarian  conception. 
The  New  Testament  is  not  primarily  a  book  of  systematic 
theology  or  of  philosophical  wisdom.  Its  interest  is 
primarily  religious  and  redemptive.  But  within  the  New 
Testament  there  appears  a  clear  basis  for  the  trinitarian 
conception.  This  becomes  explicit  in  the  baptismal 
formula  of  Matthew  28:19,  "Go  therefore  and  make 
disciples  of  all  nations,  baptizing  them  in  the  name  of  the 
Father  and  of  the  Son  and  of  the  Holy  Spirit."  It  is 
explicit  also  in  the  apostolic  benediction,  "The  grace  of  the 
Lord  Jesus  Christ  and  the  love  of  God  and  the  fellowship 
of  the  Holy  Spirit  be  with  you  all"  (2  Corinthians  13: 14).6 

How  Hold  These  Views  Together? 

Early  Christian  thought  worked  at  the  problem  this 
created  and  sought  to  safeguard  both  poles  of  belief,  as 
men's  minds  veered  too  far  now  one  way  and  now 
another.  There  were  views  which  quite  clearly  affirmed 
the  deity  of  Christ  but  threatened  the  oneness  of  God. 
Hence  there  was  misgiving  when  men  spoke  of  a  "second 
God,"  or  when  God  was  regarded  as  being  successively 
of  different  modes.  Sabellianism  was  such  a  modalism 
which  regarded  God  as  being  Father  in  the  Old  Testament, 
Son  during  Christ's  time  on  earth,  and  Holy  Spirit  since 
the  Day  of  Pentecost.    Such  successiveness  of  modes  was 

5  See  also   1   Corinthians   12:4-6;   Ephesians  4:4-6;    1   Peter   1:1.  2;   and   Tude 
20,  21.  J 


The  Fullness  of  the  Godhead  163 

regarded  as  error  because  it  divided  up  God's  unity  into 
parts.  Other  views  sought  to  affirm  God's  unity  but  did 
so  by  regarding  the  Son  and  the  Spirit  as  subordinate  to 
the  Father.  Arianism  was  such  a  view,  even  though  it  gave 
the  Son  an  exalted  position — begotten  before  the  ages  of 
time,  a  perfect  creature  of  God,  but  not  as  one  of  the 
created  beings.  The  Nicaean  Council  was  especially  con- 
cerned to  reject  the  view  that  "there  was  when  he  was 
not"  and  the  view  that  he  is  of  "another  substance"  from 
the  Father  or  that  he  is  "a  creature"  or  that  he  is  "change- 
able." All  of  these  terms  were  rejected  because  they  made 
the  Son  subordinate  to  the  Father. 

One  Substance  and  Three  Persons 

In  what  terms  then  shall  one  think  of  God  as  at  once 
unified  and  threefold?  The  formula  used  in  the  classic 
creeds  was  that  God  is  one  in  substance  and  threefold 
in  persons.  Since  God  is  infinite,  these  terms  are,  in  the 
nature  of  the  case,  analogies. 

Substance  was  a  term  taken  from  the  Roman  courts 
of  law,  where  it  referred  to  that  in  respect  to  which  a  man's 
status  in  the  community  is  determined.  A  man  of  substance 
is  a  man  of  established  position.  It  is  closely  related  to 
essence  and  inner  being.  It  is  that  which  is  essential  to  the 
man  himself.  In  relation  to  God  it  refers  to  his  absolute 
supremacy  in  the  whole  range  of  being.  This  is  what 
makes  God  what  he  is. 

When  we  say  that  God  is  threefold,  reference  is  made 
to  his  activity  and  administration.  Here  the  word  persona 
was  used.  This  was  likewise  a  legal  term  referring  to  a 
party  to  a  legal  action.  The  party  of  the  first  part  is  called 
a  person.  This  could  be  an  individual  or  a  corporation. 
It  designates  a  specific  function  performed  by  a  unit  of 
responsibility   and   reference.    A   more   familiar   use    of 


164  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

person  is  in  connection  with  drama,  in  which  it  is  the 
exact  equivalent  of  role.  Dramatis  personae  are  the  roles 
to  be  performed.  Sometimes  one  actor  will  play  one  role 
throughout  the  drama  and  sometimes  he  will  play  two  or 
more  roles,  and  then  there  are  several  personae.  In  the 
classical  era  these  personae  were  identified  with  various 
masks  worn  by  the  actor.  These  masks  were  also  called 
personae.  This  meaning  of  person  thus  is  not  a  precise 
equivalent  to  our  use  of  it  today.  It  is  not  exactly  a 
completely  separated  personality.  To  speak  of  God  in 
such  terms  would  have  been  regarded  as  tri-theism. 

God's  Varied  Roles 

The  trinitarian  formula  was  a  way  of  thinking  of 
the  Godhead  as  one  in  three  and  three  in  one.  God  in 
his  primary  status  is  indivisibly  one  and  he  exercises  his 
supremacy  in  three  distinguishable  roles  as  Father-Creator, 
Son-Redeemer,  and  Holy  Spirit-Energizer.  The  roles  are 
distinct  but  they  are  not  "parts"  of  God;  very  God  of  very 
God  is  fulfilling  each  role.  It  is  very  similar  to  the  way 
one  man  fulfills  the  roles  of  brother  to  his  sister,  husband 
to  his  wife,  and  father  to  his  son.  Each  of  these  roles  or 
relationships  is  distinct,  and  each  is  maintained  simul- 
taneously. Into  each  of  them,  also,  the  man  puts  himself 
in  his  essential  being.  None  of  the  three  would  be  satisfied 
with  a  subordinate  part  of  him.  So  it  is  with  the  fullness 
of  the  Godhead. 

The  Significance  of  the  Trinitarian  Formula 

If  the  trinitarian  formula  is  to  merit  the  respect  of 
and  employment  by  sincere  seekers  after  the  truth  about 
God,  it  must  have  significant  values  not  found  in  other 
ways  of  thinking  about  him.  We  look  now  at  some  of  the 
significant  values  which  Christians  discerned  in  it. 


The  Fullness  of  the  Godhead  165 

A  Formula  for  Our  Thinking 

For  one  thing,  it  should  be  remembered  that  it  is  a 
formula,  a  way  of  thinking  about  God.  It  is  a  symbol  by 
which  the  mind  can  better  comprehend  God.  God  is  what 
he  is,  quite  independently  of  our  thoughts  about  him.  He 
has  many  ways  of  approaching  men  and  disclosing  himself 
to  men  and  he  doubtless  can  meet  men  and  save  them 
even  though  they  do  not  understand  the  intricacies  of 
trinitarianism.  But  as  men  think  of  God  and  seek  to 
understand  his  nature  and  relationships,  they  have  been 
helped  by  symbols  which  guard  against  error  on  the  one 
hand  and  clarify  the  truth  of  Christian  belief  on  the  other. 
This  is  a  symbol  and  formula  which  holds  together  in  the 
mind  at  one  time  both  the  unity  of  God  and  a  kind  of 
plurality  in  his  being  which  does  not  break  up  the  unity. 

Many  analogies  have  been  used  throughout  history, 
other  than  that  of  una  substantia,  tres  personae.  God  is 
like  one  tree  with  root,  trunk,  and  fruit  or  like  one  river 
with  spring,  stream,  and  estuary.  God  is  like  a  thinker 
with  mind,  thought,  and  speech.  God  is  like  a  self-conscious 
mind  which  is  a  unity  of  subject  and  object  and  knowledge 
of  being  both  subject  and  object.  But  the  Trinity  does 
not  originate  from  these  analogies.  It  originates  from  the 
experience  of  God  as  Father,  as  Son,  and  as  Holy  Spirit. 
These  analogies  are  at  best  instruments  of  comprehending 
God's  unity  in  plurality  and  plurality  in  unity.  This 
formula  is  not  a  mathematical  monstrosity  in  that  there  are 
four  terms  used — God,  Father,  Son,  and  Holy  Spirit.  It  is 
an  essential  feature  of  all  thought  and  classification  that 
one  term  is  needed  for  each  individual  and  another  term 
is  needed  for  their  unity.  This  is  the  case  whether  we 
say,  "Browning,  Milton,  and  Shakespeare  are  poets,"  or 
"Lions,  tigers,  and  leopards  are  cats/'  or  "Jupiter,  Mer- 
cury, and  Saturn  are  planets." 


166  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

God  Was  in  Christ 

Secondly,  trinitarian  thought  gives  metaphysical 
grounding  in  the  nature  and  being  of  God  for  the 
historical  fact  of  Jesus  Christ.  It  means  that  Christ  is  the 
true  revealer  of  God,  the  explicit  activity  of  God.  Men 
who  saw  Christ  saw  the  glory  of  God  himself  shining  in 
his  face.  He  is  the  effulgence  of  God's  glory  and  the 
express  image  of  God's  substance.  In  him  God  was  seeking 
to  save  that  which  was  lost. 

This  is  the  nub  of  the  Nicaean  concern.  The 
trinitarians  were  earnestly  asking  whether  this  act  of 
redemption  was  part  of  God's  essential  nature.  They  felt 
discerningly  the  implication  that  if  God  left  the  task  of 
salvation  to  a  subordinate  being  it  was  not  part  of  his 
essential  nature.  It  should  not  be  said  that  the  man  Jesus 
of  Nazareth  was  the  second  person  of  the  Trinity.  But  it 
should  be  said  that,  by  the  Word's  becoming  flesh  in  him, 
"in  him  the  whole  fullness  of  deity  dwells  bodily" 
(Colossians  2:9).  This  is  the  heart  of  the  trinitarian 
concern.  This  is  the  New  Testament  message.  This  is  the 
distinctively  Christian  conception  of  God.  "God  was 
in  Christ,  reconciling  the  world  to  himself." 

We  can  say  then  that  in  important  ways  God  is  like 
Christ  and  God  was  doing  the  acts  Christ  performed.  The 
heart  of  the  universe  is  bared  in  him.  The  clue  to  history 
is  given  in  him.  Our  hope  for  the  future  is  secure  in  him. 
For  in  him  we  see  the  face  of  God. 

God  Visits  His  People  in  the  Holy  Spirit 

Thirdly,  trinitarian  thought  gives  metaphysical 
grounding  in  the  nature  and  being  of  God  for  the 
historical  experience  of  the  Holy  Spirit.  We  shall  consider 
this  belief  more  fully  in  the  next  chapters.  But  here  is 
where  we  can  see  the  essential  deity  of  the  Holy  Spirit's 


The  Fullness  of  the  Godhead  167 

work  and  presence.  He  does  not  brood  over  the  earth 
or  woo  our  hearts  as  a  subordinate  agent  of  God.  It  is 
God's  own  presence  in  our  midst  with  which  we  deal. 

A  Way  of  Comprehending  Truth 

Fourthly,  we  have  in  trinitarian  thought  a  view  of 
God  which  is  rich  and  varied  and  also  unified.  This  is 
true  for  belief  and  it  is  true  for  worship.  God  is  not  a 
broad  infinite  blank  or  a  "purple  oblong  blur/'  He  is  a 
vivid  and  active  being  who  has  color  and  fullness  but  he 
has  the  oneness  which  satisfies  the  thinking  mind  and  the 
devoted  heart.  The  variety  has  unity.  The  Father  and 
the  Son  and  the  Spirit  are  distinguishable  and  yet  they 
are  one.  "He  who  has  seen  me,"  said  Jesus  Christ,  "has 
seen  the  Father"  (John  14:9).  "The  Lord  is  the  Spirit," 
said  Paul  (2  Corinthians  3:17).  In  and  through  the  Son 
we  "have  access  in  one  Spirit  to  the  Father"  (Ephesians 
2:18). 

In  the  New  Testament  there  is  an  almost  perplexing 
interchangeability  among  the  three  persons  of  the  Trinity. 
But  they  are  focalized  and  unified  in  the  nature  and  being 
of  God.  This  "togetherness"  in  the  Godhead  gives  a  rich 
meaning  to  the  idea  that  God  is  agape  love.  It  implies 
that  there  is  a  quality  of  fellowship  and  mutuality  in  the 
very  nature  of  God,  in  the  fullness  of  his  being.  Before 
God  ever  said,  "Let  us  make  man  in  our  image"  (Genesis 
1:26),  God  was  already  the  fullness  of  love  in  his  own 
being.  This  is  the  wealth  and  unified  sufficiency  of  God, 
according  to  trinitarian  thought. 

This  fullness  of  the  Godhead  enriches  not  only  our 
thought  but  also  our  worship.  Our  hymns  find  both 
richness  and  unity  this  way. 

Holy,  holy,  holy!    Lord  God  Almighty  I 

Early  in  the  morning  our  song  shall  rise  to  Thee; 


168  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

Holy,  holy,  holy,  merciful  and  mightyl 
God  in  Three  Persons,  blessed  Trinity! 


To  Thee,  great  One  in  Three, 

Eternal  praises  be 

Hence  evermore. 

Thy  sovereign  majesty 

May  we  in  glory  see, 

And  to  eternity 

Love  and  adore. 


Glory  be  to  the  Father,  and  to  the  Son,  and  to  the  Holy  Ghost; 
As  it  was  in  the  beginning,  is  now  and  ever  shall  be, 
World  without  end.    Amen. 

Our  hymns  do  not  always  gather  the  fullness  of  the 
Godhead  into  such  complete  unity.  There  is  also  freedom, 
in  this  mode  of  thought  about  God,  to  address  these  hymns 
now  to  one  and  now  to  another  person  of  the  Godhead. 
Familiar  instances  are  Dear  Lord  and  Father  of  Mankind 
and  This  Is  My  Father's  World;  O  Could  I  Speak  the 
Matchless  Worth  and  Strong  Son  of  God,  Immortal  Love; 
Breathe  Upon  Us,  Holy  Spirit  and  Gracious  Spirit,  Dwell 
With  Me. 

Our  ceremonies  find  both  richness  and  unity  in  this 
way.  Especially  is  this  true  of  Christian  baptism.  The 
New  Testament  is  most  explicit  on  the  fullness  of  the 
Godhead  in  the  full  baptismal  formula  of  Matthew  28:19. 
It  is  interesting  to  note  that  the  creed  which  Eusebius 
proposed  to  the  Nicaean  Council  in  325  was  a  baptismal 
formula.  It  is  interesting  to  note  also  that  a  group  like 
the  Church  of  the  Brethren,  one  of  the  least  creedal  of 
the  churches,  practices  in  its  fullest  form  a  ceremony  of 
baptism  in  harmony  with  trinitarian  thought — trine 
immersion.  They  share  with  other  immersionists  the  belief 
that  complete  dipping  under  water  is  the  New  Testament 


The  Fullness  of  the  Godhead  169 

symbol  for  sin  cleansing  and  of  being  buried  and  raised 
again  with  Christ  into  newness  of  life.  They  differ  with 
most  other  immersionists  in  the  use  of  three  separate  dips 
in  the  one  rite  of  baptism.  This  is  not  because  of 
additional  cleansing  symbolism,  as  such — that  three  dips 
will  make  one  cleaner  than  one.  It  is  related  rather  to  the 
fullness  of  the  Godhead. 

The  argument  for  three  dips  in  one  baptism — trine 
immersion — follows  lines  similar  to  the  argument  for 
three  persons  in  the  one  Godhead.6  It  is  thus  made 
explicitly  clear  that  New  Testament  baptism  is  far  more 
significant  than  pagan  lustrations  or  than  Jewish  proselyte 
baptisms.  It  is  baptism  into  the  name  of  God  the  Father, 
who  created  and  sustains  us;  into  the  name  of  the  Son, 
who  is  our  Redeemer  and  Lord;  and  into  the  name  of 
the  Holy  Spirit,  who  possesses  us  and  makes  us  holy. 
Most  forms  of  baptism  used  by  Christians  retain  some 
minimum  meaning  parallel  to  the  trinitarian  view  of 
God.  No  Christian  group  retains  this  meaning  more 
completely  than  those  who  practice  trine  immersion. 

Our  prayers  likewise  find  both  richness  and  unity  in 
trinitarian  terms.    That  is  true  of  the  following  prayers: 

Almighty  God,  unto  whom  all  hearts  are  open,  all  desires 
known,  and  from  whom  no  secrets  are  hid,  cleanse  the  thoughts 
of  our  hearts  by  the  inspiration  of  thy  Holy  Spirit,  that  we  may 
perfectly  love  thee,  and  worthily  magnify  thy  holy  name,  through 
Jesus  Christ  our  Lord.  Amen. 

O  God,  who  art  the  Father  of  all,  and  who  alone  makest 
men  to  be  of  one  mind  in  an  house,  we  beseech  thee  to  grant  to 
us,  by  the  inspiration  of  thy  Holy  Spirit,  a  fuller  realization  of  our 
brotherhood  in  thee;  remove  all  anger  and  bitterness,  and  deepen 


«See  H.  C.  Early's  paper,  "What  the  Church  Stands  For:  Her  Doctrines," 
in  Two  Centuries  of  the  Church  of  the  Brethren:  Bicentennial  Addresses  (Elgin: 
Brethren  Publishing  House,  1908),  pages  137-139. 


170  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

in  us  a  sense  of  truth  and  equity  in  our  dealings  with  one  another, 
for  the  sake  of  thy  Son  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ.   Amen. 

This  is  true  pointedly  and  familiarly  in  the  apostolic 
benediction  which  forms  the  framework  of  this  study: 
"The  grace  of  the  Lord  Jesus  Christ  and  the  love  of  God 
and  the  fellowship  of  the  Holy  Spirit  be  with  you  all" 
(2  Corinthians  13:14). 


The  Fellowship  of  the  Holy  Spirit 


As  we  come  to  the  third  part  of  the  apostolic 
benediction  we  deal  with  materials  at  once  more  vague 
and  more  specific  than  those  involved  in  the  other  two 
parts.  The  highly  theological  formulations  of  Christian 
belief  in  the  classical  creeds  had  far  more  to  say  about 
God  as  creative  and  controlling  Father  and  as  revealing 
and  redeeming  Son  than  they  did  about  God  as  energizing 
and  unifying  Spirit.  At  the  simpler  level  of  Christian 
doctrine,  likewise,  teaching  has  been  clearer  and  fuller 
about  God  the  Father  and  about  God  in  Christ  the  Son 
than  it  has  about  God's  indwelling  presence  as  the  Holy 
Spirit. 

Nevertheless,  the  experience  of  the  Spirit  has  been 
widespread,  vivid,  and  quickening  throughout  Christian 
history.  Belief  in  the  Holy  Spirit  has  been  prevalent  more 
as  a  concrete  experience  than  as  a  scheme  of  thought.  It 
should  be  both,  but  it  is  primarily  a  doctrine  of  Christian 
experience.  It  is  a  belief  about  man's  participation  in 
the  divine  life.  The  grace  of  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ  which 
flows  from  and  expresses  the  love  of  God  the  Father  brings 
about  a  new  kind  of  life:  felloivship  of  the  Holy  Spirit. 
This  will  be  considered  in  terms  of  the  fellowship  which 
the  individual  believer  has  with  God  through  the  Holy 
Spirit.  It  will  be  considered  also  in  terms  of  the  new 
community  of  believers  in  Christ — the  fellowship  bound 
together  by  the  presence  of  God  himself  in  the  Holy  Spirit. 
This  fellowship  centers  in  the  church,  where  it  embraces 


172  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

the  individual  believer  in  its  fold.  The  fellowship  in  the 
church  is  both  the  primary  instrument  of  the  divine  society 
on  earth  and  the  earnest  and  down  payment  of  its  fulfill- 
ment in  heaven. 

Thus  the  full  flowering  of  trinitarian  thought  be- 
comes manifest  in  the  Christian's  experience  of  fellowship, 
God  is  present  in  his  immediacy  and  immanence,  Christ 
is  present  in  an  abiding  and  universal  manner.  God's 
wayward  children  the  world  over  are  wooed  toward  the 
high  and  holy  level  of  intimacy  with  him  and  with  each 
other,  which  can  be  accurately  described  as  "the  fellow- 
ship of  the  Holy  Spirit." 


CHAPTER  TEN 


I  Will  Pour  Out  My  Spirit 


The  doctrine  and  the  experience  of  the  holy  spirit 
have  had  an  important  place  in  Christian  history.  The 
New  Testament  is  pre-eminently  a  book  concerning  this 
doctrine  and  experience.  Nearly  all  its  books  refer  to  the 
Spirit  in  some  way.  The  Gospels  carry  the  promise  and 
Acts  the  rich  fulfillment  of  a  new  era  of  the  Holy  Spirit's 
presence  and  power.  There  are  two  hundred  twenty  ref- 
erences to  the  Spirit  or  Spirit;  ninety-one  to  the  Holy 
Spirit  or  Holy  Spirit.  There  are  nineteen  references 
to  the  Spirit  of  God,  the  Spirit  of  the  Lord,  the  Spirit  of 
God  the  Father,  or  the  Spirit  of  the  Father;  and  there  are 
five  references  to  the  Spirit  of  his  Son,  the  Spirit  of  Jesus, 
the  Spirit  of  Jesus  Christ,  or  the  Spirit  of  Christ.  These 
three  hundred  thirty-five  references  are  in  addition  to 
one  hundred  thirty-four  in  the  Old  Testament  in  which 
the  word  Spirit  is  used  with  supernatural  meaning.  More 
than  by  word  count,  the  importance  of  the  Holy  Spirit  is 
indicated  in  the  promises  of  Jesus  Christ  to  his  disciples 
(Luke  24:49;  John  14:26;  15:26;  16:7;  Acts  1:5,  8);  in  the 
experience  of  Pentecost  (Acts  2:1-41);  and  by  being 
included  in  the  baptismal  formula  (Matthew  28:19)  and 
the  apostolic  benediction    (2   Corinthians    13:14). 

This  importance  shown  in  the  Bible  has  also  been 
shown  in  Christian  history.  As  we  have  seen,  the  doctrine 
of  Christ  was  the  primary  occasion  of  framing  trinitarian 
thought  but  the  Holy  Spirit  was  included  in  the  final 
formula  and  in  the  completed  creeds.    The  place  of  the 


174  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

Spirit  in  the  creeds  was  matched  by  his  work  in  periodic 
outbursts  of  quickening  power  which  gave  new  vitality  to 
the  Christian  movement.  There  has  ever  been  a  close 
connection  between  this  quickened  power  and  emphasis 
upon  belief  in  the  Holy  Spirit.  They  tend  to  increase  and 
decrease  together — the  experience  of  the  power  and  the 
emphasis  upon  the  belief. 

Questions  People  Raise 

Along  with  this  central  importance  of  belief  in  the 
Holy  Spirit,  there  are  often  serious  misgivings  people  have 
about  the  matter.  Questions  perplex  their  minds  and  cause 
confusion,  controversy,  and  lack  of  free-flowing  power. 
It  may  profit  us  to  explore  several  of  them. 

The  Words  Which  We  Use 

There  is  some  question  because  of  the  words  which 
are  used.  The  word  used  in  the  Old  Testament  was  the 
Hebrew  ruach,  which  means  breath  or  wind.  The  Spirit 
of  God  was  thought  of  as  some  objective  force  which 
would  sweep  in  upon  a  man,  much  as  a  gust  would  blow 
across  the  desert,  and  cause  him  to  do  things  beyond  his 
own  strength.  This  force,  in  its  fuller  meaning,  was 
regarded  not  merely  as  an  influence  coming  remotely  from 
God  but  as  God's  own  living  presence  in  the  experience 
of  men  and  at  work  in  the  world. 

In  the  New  Testament  the  word  was  the  Greek 
pneuma,  which  likewise  means  breath  or  wind.  We  are 
more  familiar  with  this  root  meaning  because  we  use  it  in 
such  words  as  pneumatic  and  pneumonia.  These  latter 
words  are  so  common  in  their  usage  that  some  people  are 
offended  or  amused  when  the  doctrine  of  the  Holy  Spirit 
is  called  pneumatology.  Reading  the  New  Testament, 
however,  gives  one  the  sense  that  the  Holy  Spirit  is  a 


/  Will  Pour  Out  My  Spirit  175 

robust,  full-bodied  presence  moving  in  and  out  among 
men  giving  them  power  and  vitality.  They  are  bereft  and 
weak  when  the  Spirit  is  absent  and  disturbed  when  he 
haunts  their  consciences.  Here  again  the  Holy  Spirit  is 
God's  own  living  presence  in  the  experience  of  men  and 
at  work  in  the  world. 

Our  English  words  are  also  confusing.  Up  until 
recently  the  term  used  was  Holy  Ghost.  That  still  appears 
in  older  Bibles,  prayers,  and  hymns.  But  for  most  people 
ghost  is  a  spooky  kind  of  word  taken  only  half  seriously. 
It  is  difficult  to  use  it  in  its  earlier  religious  meaning.  The 
term  coming  into  wide  use  is  Holy  Spirit.  Spirit  is  from  the 
Latin  word  spiritus,  meaning  also  to  breathe  or  to  blow. 
It  has  over  a  score  of  meanings  listed  in  the  dictionary 
and  its  uses  are  wide,  ranging  from  spirits  of  ammonia 
and  spiritous  liquors  to  a  spirited  horse  or  an  inspired  poet. 
It  is  used  for  inner  motivation  and  attitude,  for  the 
unifying  force  or  vital  principle  of  a  college  or  a  nation, 
or  for  the  force  which  possesses  a  genius  and  gives  him 
unusual  powers.  In  spite  of  these  widely  varied  and 
sometimes  vague  usages,  it  is  a  good  and  acceptable  word 
to  refer  to  the  personal  presence  and  active  power  of  the 
living  God  himself  at  work  in  the  world. 

The  Immanence  of  God 

Other  questions  arise  as  to  the  relation  of  the  Holy 
Spirit  to  the  immanence  of  God  our  Father  and  to  the 
indwelling  Christ.  It  is  argued  that  these  ideas  all  refer  to 
the  same  experience  and  thus  make  the  concept  of  the  Holy 
Spirit  superfluous.  Our  discussion  of  the  Trinity  has 
already  urged  the  unity  of  the  Godhead.  There  is  therefore 
strong  identity  among  these  forms  of  Christian  experience. 
It  is  precisely  the  immanence  of  God  which  we  experience 
in  the  Holy  Spirit.    Paul,  in  Athens,  made  close  identity 


176  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

between  them.  The  God  who  made  the  world  and  every- 
thing in  it  and  who  made  from  one  every  nation  of  men 
is  the  one  about  whom  he  also  said,  'In  him  we  live  and 
move  and  have  our  being"   (Acts  17:24-28). 

We  speak  of  the  Holy  Spirit  as  personal,  not  to  make 
of  him  a  "personality"  separate  from  God  but  to  identify 
him  with  God.  If  we  think  of  the  Holy  Spirit  as  God 
himself  we  are  freed  from  the  temptation  to  speak  of  him 
as  "it."  There  is  a  distinct  advantage  to  thinking  of  the 
immanence  of  God  in  terms  of  the  Holy  Spirit,  for  then 
we  have  a  mode  of  thought  which  enables  us  to  think  of 
him  at  the  same  time  as  transcendent.  We  can  think  of 
God  as  the  "Beyond"  who  is  also  "within."  We  can  think 
of  God  in  terms  adequate  to  his  role  as  Creator  of  the  vast 
and  complicated  universe  at  the  same  time  that  he  moves 
within  our  hearts. 

The  Indwelling  Christ 

What  about  the  indwelling  Christ  and  the  Holy 
Spirit?  Here  again  we  are  quite  as  concerned  to  affirm 
unity  and  identity  of  experience  as  we  are  to  affirm 
distinction.  Yet  they  are  distinguishable.  Historically,  of 
course,  the  Holy  Spirit  was  at  work  in  the  world  before 
the  Word  became  flesh.  The  Holy  Spirit  was  the  agent 
of  Jesus'  birth,  came  upon  him  at  baptism,  led  him 
through  temptation  to  victory,  and  empowered  him  to 
fulfill  his  appointed  ministry.  After  Jesus'  resurrection  and 
departure,  the  Holy  Spirit  was  given  as  another  Helper 
and  Presence  to  be  among  the  disciples  in  Christ's  stead. 
He  was  the  living  presence  who  freed  Christ  from  spatial 
limitations.  Now  the  Christians  could  discern  Christ's 
presence  in  universal  fashion.  Christ  was  and  is  alive 
forevermore  among  us  through  the  Holy  Spirit. 

When   we   think   of   this   universal   and   permanent 


/  Will  Pour  Out  My  Spirit  177 

presence  we  can  do  it  best  in  terms  of  the  Holy  Spirit. 
When  we  think  of  the  nature  and  character,  the  will  and 
activity  of  this  presence,  we  should  remember  him  as 
Christ  living  in  us  through  the  Holy  Spirit.  Distinctions 
can  thus  be  made,  but  the  identity  of  the  Spirit  of  Christ 
and  the  Holy  Spirit  should  also  be  kept  in  mind.  In  any 
case  it  is  important  to  note  that  the  era  of  fullness  of  the 
Spirit  was  made  possible  by  Christ's  mission  and  ministry. 
That  which  was  promised  through  the  prophets  Jeremiah 
(31:31-34)  and  Joel  (2:28-32)  was  fulfilled  among  the 
disciples  who  had  been  with  Jesus.  Through  Christ,  God 
brought  about  his  declared  intention:  "I  will  pour  out 
my  Spirit."  It  is  important  also  to  note  that  the  character 
and  nature  of  the  Holy  Spirit  was  revealed  by  Jesus  Christ. 
The  standard  for  testing  the  spirits  to  see  whether  they  be 
of  God  is  fixed  in  Jesus  Christ,  who  has  come  in  the  flesh 
(1  John  4:1,  2). 

Man's  Part  in  Christian  Experience 

We  have  been  looking  at  God's  part  in  man's  salvation 
and  we  can  see  that  it  is  amazing  and  tremendous.  There 
are  many  views  of  religion  as  primarily  the  quest  of  man 
— for  the  truth,  for  the  good  life,  for  life's  fulfillment,  or 
even  for  God  himself.  As  against  these  views,  we  see  in  the 
Bible  and  in  the  Christian  faith  an  opposite  quest — from 
God  toward  man. 

God's  Part  Is  Great 

God  made  man  a  free  creature  for  a  high  destiny.  God 
administers  the  natural  and  moral  orders  within  which 
alone  man  can  grow  into  intelligence  and  moral  character. 
God  blesses  our  right  efforts  with  approval  and  joy  and 
judges  our  errors  with  pain  and  frustration.  Even  in 
man's   sin   and   waywardness,    God's   pursuant   love   has 


178  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

taken  availing  steps  toward  his  restoration.  God's  part  in 
salvation  is  so  great  as  to  seem  almost  total  and  over- 
whelming. His  sovereignty  and  initiative  have  been  truly 
discerned  by  men  like  Barth  of  Basel,  Calvin  of  Geneva, 
Augustine  of  Hippo,  and  Paul  of  Tarsus.  God's  priority 
in  salvation  is  called,  in  theological  terms,  prevenient  grace 
and  pursuant  love.  In  Scriptural  language  we  read  of  it, 
"For  by  grace  you  have  been  saved  through  faith;  and 
this  is  not  your  own  doing,  it  is  the  gift  of  God — not 
because  of  works,  lest  any  man  should  boast"  (Ephesians 
2:8,  9).  It  is  also  a  recurrent  theme  in  the  language  of 
devotion. 

I  find,  I  walk,  I  love,  but,  oh,  the  whole 
Of  love  is  but  my  answer,  Lord,  to  Thee! 
For  Thou  wert  long  beforehand  with  my  soul; 
Always  Thou  lovedst  me. 

In  the  language  of  grace,  God's  part  is  primary,  amazing, 
overwhelming. 

Man's  Part  Is  Also  Significant 

But  classic  theologies  have  been  singularly  silent  on 
man's  part  in  salvation.  They  have  overlooked  explicit 
Scriptural  statements  such  as  'Tor  we  are  fellow  workmen 
for  God"  (1  Corinthians  3:9);  "Work  out  your  own 
salvation  with  fear  and  trembling"  (Philippians  2:12); 
or,  "Strive  to  enter  by  the  narrow  door"  (Luke  13:24). 
They  have  overlooked  the  constant  appeal  of  Scripture  to 
man's  response  by  reason,  by  trust,  by  repentance,  by  faith, 
by  obedience.  They  have  overlooked  the  nature  of  God's 
love  which  seeks  to  evoke  free  response  by  persuasion. 
They  have  overlooked  the  actuality  of  man's  own  experi- 
ence of  salvation,  the  terms  of  which  are  especially  familiar 
to  all  evangelical  Christians.  The  grace  of  Christ  and 
the    love    of    the    Father    become    matters    of    Christian 


/  Will  Pour  Out  My  Spirit  179 

experience  as  men  have  fellowship  with  the  Holy  Spirit. 
Man  must  himself  participate  in  the  divine  life.  In  this 
participation  man's  salvation  becomes  effective  in  his 
experience.  Let  us  note  the  terms  of  man's  response  to 
God's  overtures. 

Repentance 

Repentance  is  in  the  forefront  of  our  response  to  God. 
John  the  Baptist  and  Jesus  started  their  public  ministry 
with  the  clarion  call  to  repentance  because  the  kingdom 
of  heaven  was  at  hand  (Matthew  3:2;  4:17).  The  apostles 
carried  on  their  ministry  with  the  same  note  (Acts  2:38; 
3:19;  17:30).  The  word  they  used  means  to  change  one's 
mind,  and  in  this  case  the  mind  refers  to  the  center  of  the 
whole  personality.  "Repentance  is  the  turning  away  from 
a  life  of  sin,  the  breaking  off  from  evil,  because  of  a  change 
of  mind  in  which  a  new  and  better  standard  of  life  has  been 
accepted."1  To  repent,  according  to  Webster's  definition, 
is  "to  amend  or  resolve  to  amend  one's  life  as  a  result  of 
contrition  for  one's  sins."  It  is  not  worldly  sorrow  or 
paralyzing  remorse,  but  a  basic  revulsion  against  one's 
whole  pattern  of  life,  which  issues  in  an  inner  about-face 
of  direction.  It  is  marked  by  sorrow  and  regret.  It  is  often 
as  painful  as  the  breaking  of  a  bone  so  that  it  can  be  reset. 
The  essential  feature  is  the  change  of  mind  and  of  the 
direction  of  one's  life.  An  Old  Testament  equivalent  is 
to  turn  and  to  return — to  turn  from  transgression  and 
wickedness  and  to  turn  toward  God  and  the  way  of 
righteousness.  These  are  also  the  words  of  the  Apostle 
Paul  to  the  Jews  and  to  the  Gentiles:  "that  they  should 
repent  and  turn  to  God  and  perform  deeds  worthy  of 
repentance"   (Acts  26:20). 


1  William  N.  Clarke,  An  Outline  of  Christian  Theology   (New  York:    Scrib 
ner's,  1898),  page  402. 


180  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

Repentance  has  a  distinct  "turning  point"  of  change 
and  thus  it  may  be  regarded  as  a  specific  act.  It  is 
accompanied,  however,  by  abhorrence  of  sins  and  of  sinful 
desires  and  it  involves  a  turning  toward  the  good  and 
toward  complete  amendment  of  life.  It  involves,  from 
a  practical  point  of  view,  confession  of  one's  sins  so  as 
to  have  them  effectively  dealt  with.  Such  confession  must 
be  made  freely  to  God.  Much  help  is  gained  by  making 
confession  to  a  Christian  friend  and  counselor.  Most  of 
this  should  be  done  in  private  even  when  done  in  the  name 
of  the  church.  On  occasion  there  is  value  in  open  confes- 
sion to  the  congregation.  Repentance  involves  not  only 
such  confession  but  often  restitution  as  well.  If  repentance 
is  genuine  it  leads  to  efforts  to  restore  ill-gotten  property, 
to  rectify  deceits,  to  clarify  misunderstandings,  and  to 
reconcile  estrangements.  In  such  efforts  one  is  aided  by 
the  promptings  and  strength  given  by  the  Holy  Spirit.  As 
a  result  of  such  efforts  God  pours  out  his  Spirit  more 
fully  upon  his  repentant  children. 

Faith 

Another  central  element  in  man's  response  is  faith. 
Faith  is  a  common  religious  word  but  it  is  complex  in  its 
meaning.  To  have  faith  is  to  believe  in  a  fact,  to 
acknowledge  a  truth.  Accordingly,  we  are  admonished  to 
repent  and  believe  the  gospel.  Having  faith  goes  farther 
than  this,  for  even  the  demons  believe  and  shudder.  "Faith 
in  Christ  is  trustful  recognition  of  the  saving  love  of  God 
in  Christ,  with  humble  and  willing  acceptance  of  the 
forgiveness  and  holy  life  that  it  offers."2 

Faith  is  the  commitment  of  the  believer  to  a  life  of 
discipleship.  The  life  of  faith  is  a  life  of  faithfulness  and 
obedience.     This    experience    of   faith    and    trust   has   a 


2  Clarke,  op.  cit.,  page  404. 


/  Will  Pour  Out  My  Spirit  181 

quietistic  aspect  to  it.  It  is  an  act  of  complete  relaxation 
and  surrender  to  the  love  and  grace  of  God. 

Just  as  I  am,  without  one  plea 
But  that  Thy  blood  was  shed  for  me, 
And  that  Thou  bidd'st  me  come  to  Thee, 
O  Lamb  of  God,  I  come,  I  come. 

This  mood  of  complete  surrender  and  rest  in  the  love  of 
God  is  a  characteristic  response  of  faith.  William  James 
describes  it  thus: 

There  is  a  state  of  mind,  known  to  religious  men,  but  to 
no  others,  in  which  the  will  to  assert  ourselves  and  hold  our  own 
has  been  displaced  by  a  willingness  to  close  our  mouths  and  be 
as  nothing  in  the  floods  and  waterspouts  of  God.  .  .  .  The  time 
for  tension  in  our  soul  is  over,  and  that  of  happy  relaxation,  of 
calm  deep  breathing,  of  an  eternal  present,  with  no  discordant 
future  to  be  anxious  about,  has  arrived.3 

This  quiet  mood  is  expressed  in  the  current  counsel- 
ing phrase,  being  accepted.  Much  more  is  involved  in  the 
implications  of  the  experience.  But  here  is  good  news 
indeed,  that  by  the  grace  and  love  of  God  we  can  surrender 
for  we  now  belong  again.  There  is,  however,  also  an 
activistic  aspect  to  this  experience  of  faith.  It  is  implied 
in  the  act  of  commitment  wherein  we  not  only  surrender 
to  Christ  but  also  espouse  the  life  of  discipleship.  "Our 
wills  are  ours,  we  know  not  how.  Our  wills  are  ours  to 
make  them  Thine."  It  is  an  act  of  the  total  personality  in 
full  response  to  the  grace  of  Christ  and  the  love  of  God. 

It  Is  a  Total  Experience 

Viewed  as  a  whole,  this  experience  is  called  justifica- 
tion by  faith,  reconciliation  to  God,  or  regeneration.  One 
is  spoken  of  as  being  born  again  (John  3:3,  5,  7)  and  as 
being  a  new  creature  in  Christ   (2  Corinthians  5:17).    In 

3  Varieties  of  Religious  Experience  (New  York:  Longmans,  Green  and 
Company,  1922),  pages  46,  47.  Reprinted  by  permission  of  Paul  R.  Reynolds  & 
Son,  599  Fifth  Avenue,  New  York  17, 


182  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

psychological  terms  it  is  often  called  conversion,  which, 
according  to  William  James,  is  "the  process,  gradual  or 
sudden,  by  which  a  self  hitherto  divided,  and  consciously 
wrong,  inferior  and  unhappy,  becomes  unified  and  con- 
sciously right,  superior  and  happy,  in  consequence  of  its 
firmer  hold  upon  religious  realities."4 

Such  an  experience  is  sometimes  sudden,  intense,  and 
dramatic,  as  was  the  case  of  Saul  on  his  way  to  Damascus. 
But  even  then  there  are  indications  of  preparatory  steps 
in  "the  raging  fury"  of  his  persecution,  in  his  sharp 
memory  of  consenting  to  Stephen's  death,  and  in  the 
kicking  "against  the  goads"  (Acts  26:9-14).  Others 
experience  this  conversion  over  a  longer  period  of  time 
and  may  have  difficulty  in  pinpointing  just  where  the 
decisive  corner  was  turned,  or  the  borderline  was  crossed. 

As  passing  southward  I  may  cross  the  line 

Between  the  Arctic  and  Atlantic  Oceans; 

I  cannot  tell  by  any  startling  sounds  or  strange  commotions 

Across  my  track. 
But  if  the  days  grow  brighter  one  by  one, 
And  e'en  the  icebergs  melt  their  hardened  faces, 
And  sailors  linger,  basking  in  the  sun, 
I  know  I  must  have  made  the  change  of  places 

Some  distance  back. 

When  answering  still  the  Savior's  call 
I  passed  the  bourne  of  life  and  came  to  Him, 
When  in  my  love  for  Him  I  gave  up  all, 
The  very  hour  when  I  knew  I  knew  Him 

I  cannot  tell. 
But  as  unceasingly  I  feel  his  love, 
As  this  cold  heart  is  melted  to  o'erflowing, 
As  now  so  clear  His  life  shines  from  above, 
I  marvel  at  the  change  and  press  on,  knowing 

That  all  is  well.5 


4  Op.  cit.,  page   189. 

5  Author  unknown. 


/  Will  Pour  Out  My  Spirit  183 

Becoming  a  Christian  is  likened  to  being  born  again 
because  it  marks  a  distinct  beginning  of  the  divine  life.  It 
is  being  born  from  above,  being  born  of  the  Spirit.  By 
the  response  of  repentance  and  faith  to  God's  overtures,  a 
man  enters  into  a  relationship  and  a  kind  of  life  which 
is  new,  a  life  lived  in  fellowship  with  God  through  par- 
ticipation in  the  Holy  Spirit. 

Growth  in  the  Spiritual  Life 

Being  born  again  does  not  imply  that  one  has 
attained  maturity  in  the  Christian  life.  Sometimes  when 
people  change  suddenly  and  dramatically  it  appears  that 
their  life  in  grace  is  complete.  Sometimes  also  we  hear  it 
said  or  implied  that,  if  a  Christian  backslides  or  falls  short, 
he  was  not  truly  converted  in  the  first  place.  But  birth 
implies  growth.  A  new  creature  is  a  new  beginning. 
Conversion  and  rebirth  are  in  themselves  valid  experiences 
and  specific  events.  But  they  are  also  commitments  to 
subsequent  growth.  The  coming  of  a  newborn  child  is 
a  lovely  event  with  delightful  meaning  in  itself.  But  it  is 
the  saddest  of  tragedies  if  growth  is  retarded.  Birth  is  a 
promise  of  growth.  Or,  if  a  child  is  adopted,  the  act  of 
adoption  is  a  very  significant  event  in  itself.  New  relation- 
ships have  been  established.  The  child  now  belongs  com- 
pletely to  the  family.  But  the  full  implications  of  the 
act  require  a  lifetime  of  growth  in  the  new  relationship. 
The  description  of  this  growth  is  set  forth  in  the  doctrine 
of  sanctification. 

There  are  varied  aspects  of  sanctification  which  are 
differently  emphasized  in  the  definitions.  In  addition  to 
sanctification  as  a  process  of  growth,  John  Wesley  stressed 
suddenness:  "Sanctification  in  the  proper  sense  is  an 
instantaneous  deliverance  from  all  sin,  and  includes  an 
instantaneous  power  then  given  always  to  cleave   unto 


184  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

God."  William  N.  Clarke  stresses  the  ongoing  process. 
"Sanctification  is  the  carrying  on  of  the  divine  life  toward 
perfection.  It  is  the  maintaining  and  strengthening  of  that 
holy  disposition  which  God  imparts  in  regeneration."6  In 
broad  terms  we  may  apply  the  word  justification  to  the 
experience  of  reconciliation  and  rebirth  and  the  word 
sanctification  (being  made  holy)  to  the  process  of  growth 
in  the  life  of  the  Holy  Spirit.  We  should  not  draw  our 
lines  too  sharply,  however,  for  we  are  always  justified  by 
faith  and  the  Spirit  is  at  work  both  at  the  beginning  and 
afterwards  making  us  holy.  There  is  no  effort  in  Scripture 
to  draw  neat  lines  or  to  press  for  a  precise  order  of 
sequence.  Note  Paul's  words  as  an  example:  ''But  you 
were  washed,  you  were  sanctified,  you  were  justified  in  the 
name  of  the  Lord  Jesus  Christ,  and  in  the  Spirit  of  our 
God"  (1  Corinthians  6:11).  Sanctification  is,  in  short,  the 
fellowship  and  the  participation  we  have  with  the  Holy 
Spirit.  In  this  fellowship  with  him  he  does  his  sanctifying 
works.   Let  us  note  some  of  them. 

Cleansing  and  Purification 

He  cleanses  and  purifies  us.  It  is  his  presence  which 
disturbs  our  consciences  and  convicts  us  of  sin  (John 
16:8).  So  important  is  his  work  in  moving  us  to  repentance 
that  we  are  warned  against  grieving  him  (Ephesians  4:30) 
lest  we  pass  the  point  of  no  return.  The  sin  against  the 
Holy  Spirit  lies  in  so  disregarding  or  rejecting  his 
promptings  that  we  can  no  longer  tell  what  is  from  God 
and  what  is  from  Satan.  It  is  hardly  for  us  to  know  just 
where  that  point  is  passed,  but  the  warnings  are  sharp 
and  the  end  is  perilous  (Mark  3:22-30;  Hebrews  6:1-4). 
If  and  as  we  respond  to  his  promptings,  however,  he  pours 
God's  love  into  our  hearts  (Romans  5:5)  and  sets  us  free 

6  Op.  cit.,  page  409. 


/  Will  Pour  Out  My  Spirit  185 

from  sin  (Romans  8:2).  We  not  only  have  our  sins 
forgiven  but  our  hearts  are  so  filled  with  the  Spirit's 
presence  that  he  bears  his  own  fruit  of  "love,  joy,  peace, 
patience,  kindness,  goodness,  faithfulness,  gentleness,  self- 
control''  (Galatians  5:22).  Our  lives  are  purified  not  by 
repression  but  by  a  new  and  magnificent  obsession.  This 
is  far  more  than  "the  power  of  positive  thinking."  It  is 
"the  expulsive  power  of  a  new  affection." 

Comfort  and  Assurance 

He  gives  us  comfort  and  assurance.  Comfort  is  not 
a  word  of  cozy  pampering  but  one  of  courage  and  fortitude. 
Comfort  is  a  gift  of  strength  to  endure  trials.  In  times  of 
pain  sustaining  power  is  given.  In  times  of  sorrow  and 
bereavement  courage  is  bestowed.  This  is  the  Spirit's 
answer  to  the  problem  of  suffering.  It  is  not  as  an  easy 
or  neat  intellectual  formula  but  as  strength  and  comfort. 
It  does  not  deny  the  pain  or  answer  all  the  questions.  But 
we  do  not  lose  heart,  because  the  Comforter  and  Helper 
whom  Christ  promised  has  come  to  our  side.  "I  know 
I  cannot  drift  beyond  his  love  and  care." 

Assurance  is  needed  to  give  us  a  sense  of  personal 
worth.  Through  the  Holy  Spirit,  God  assures  us  of  our 
genuine  significance.  In  our  inner  privacy,  where  we 
are  utterly  alone,  we  still  have  an  infallible  companion. 
It  is  said  that  when  John  and  Tom  are  together  there  are 
really  six  persons  present:  John's  John,  Tom's  John,  and 
the  real  John;  Tom's  Tom,  John's  Tom,  and  the  real 
Tom.  This  real  John  and  this  real  Tom  are  what  they 
are  in  solitude.  But  they  are  not  alone.  Their  names  are 
known.  They  are  given  a  sense  of  security  and  assurance 
in  this  inner  center  of  residual  privacy. 

Assurance  and  security  are  also  given  as  to  the  future. 
Sometimes  this  is  set  forth  in  a  rigid  doctrine  of  eternal 


186  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

security.  It  is  argued  that  once  we  are  in  grace  we  are 
always  in  grace.  This  overlooks  the  plain  word  of  Scripture 
that  we  can  be  partakers  of  the  Holy  Spirit  and  then  fall 
away  (Hebrews  6:4-6).  Or  it  is  argued  that,  since  we  are 
saved  by  grace,  our  daily  walk  does  not  affect  our  salvation. 
This  overlooks  the  parable  of  the  last  judgment  (Mat- 
thew 25:31-46)  and  it  overlooks  the  exclusion  of  the 
unrighteous  (immoral,  thieves,  drunkards,  etc.)  from  the 
kingdom  of  God  (1  Corinthians  6:9).  But  there  is 
assurance  as  to  the  future.  So  long  as  we  keep  ourselves 
in  the  love  of  God  (Jude  21)  nothing  can  separate  us  from 
it  (Romans  8:38).  We  can  be  sure  enough  to  be  free  from 
anxiety  and  to  live  our  lives  in  joy.  Our  fellowship  with 
the  Holy  Spirit  brings  us  comfort  and  assurance. 

Illumination  and  Guidance 

He  gives  us  illumination  and  guidance.  These  both 
refer  to  the  experience  of  knowledge.  The  Spirit  gives  us 
knowledge  through  the  full  exercise  of  our  rational 
powers,  not  against  them.  And  yet  we  can  discern  that 
his  own  presence  adds  something  to  ordinary  experiences 
of  knowledge.  Jesus  called  him  the  Spirit  of  truth  (John 
14:17;  15:26;  16:13).  He  does  not  bring  truth  contrary 
to  Christ  himself,  who  is  the  way,  the  truth,  and  the  life 
(John  14:6).  But  he  does  take  the  truth  of  Christ  and 
illuminate  it  so  that  it  can  be  more  fully  discerned. 

It  is  a  common  human  experience  that  truth  comes  as 
a  gift  when  our  further  striving  for  it  is  a  vain  endeavor. 
This  was  the  case  with  Archimedes  in  his  search  for  the 
principle  of  specific  gravity.  It  "came"  to  him  in  his  bath 
and  caused  him  to  shout,  "Eureka,  I  found  it."  It  was  the 
case  with  Albert  Schweitzer  in  Africa  when  he  was 
searching  for  a  satisfying  ethical  principle  for  his 
philosophy  of  life. 


/  Will  Pour  Out  My  Spirit  187 

For  months  on  end  I  lived  in  a  continual  state  of  mental 
excitement.  ...  I  was  wandering  about  in  a  thicket  in  which  no 
path  was  to  be  found.  I  was  leaning  with  all  my  might  against 
an  iron  door  which  would  not  yield.  .  .  .  Lost  in  thought  I  sat 
on  the  deck  of  the  barge  (steaming  slowly  up  the  Congo),  struggling 
to  find  the  elementary  and  universal  conception  of  the  ethical  which 
I  had  not  discovered  in  any  philosophy.  Sheet  after  sheet  I  covered 
with  disconnected  sentences,  merely  to  keep  myself  concentrated 
on  the  problem.  Late  on  the  third  day,  at  the  very  moment 
when,  at  sunset,  we  were  making  our  way  through  a  herd  of 
hippopotamuses,  there  flashed  upon  my  mind,  unforeseen  and 
unsought,  the  phrase,   "Reverence  for  life."7 

Many  a  minister  and  Bible  student  has  found,  in  similar 
fashion,  that  a  passage  will  take  on  a  gleam  of  meaning 
which  can  be  ascribed  only  to  immediate  illumination 
by  the  Holy  Spirit. 

In  the  case  of  guidance,  the  knowledge  received  is 
not  in  the  nature  of  general  insight,  but  rather  an  indica- 
tion of  direction  in  making  some  important  choice.  Here 
again  the  Spirit  uses  all  our  ordinary  capacities  of  judg- 
ment and  evaluation.  But  life's  choices  have  to  be  made 
about  a  future  still  unknown.  How  can  one  find  and 
follow  the  will  of  God  about  a  career,  a  life's  companion, 
a  move  to  college  or  to  a  given  job?  It  is  the  testimony 
of  Scripture  and  of  many  Christians  that  in  such  critical 
choices  a  word  of  guidance  is  given.  This  comes  after 
checking  many  avenues  of  wisdom  such  as  Scripture, 
counseling  with  friends,  prayer,  study,  and  exploring 
alternative  opportunities.  It  comes  in  a  mood  of  complete 
readiness  to  follow  the  leads  which  may  be  given.  Some- 
times it  comes  swiftly  and  clearly  before  the  choice  is  made. 
Sometimes  it  comes  as  a  mood  of  confirmation  after  a 
seemingly  ambiguous  choice  has  been  made.  But  it  comes, 
as  it  came  to  Paul   in  Troas.    Those  who  follow  such 


7  Out  of  My  Life  and  Thought  (New  York:    Henry  Holt,  1933,  1939),  pages 
184-186.    Reprinted  by  permission  of  the  publishers. 


188  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

guidance  live  with  the  sense  of  God's  hand  upon  them  and 
in  fellowship  with  the  Holy  Spirit. 

Enabling  Grace 

The  Holy  Spirit  is  an  enabling  Spirit.  He  gives  us 
capacity  and  energy  to  do  our  work  and  to  achieve 
competence.  In  part  this  is  given  in  the  inborn  abilities 
and  capacities  we  receive  at  birth.  These  aptitudes  and 
capacities  are  subjected  to  scientific  measurement  and 
described  by  laws  of  heredity.  But  their  religious  nature 
is  indirectly  acknowledged  when  we  speak  of  talented 
and  gifted  people.  As  in  the  case  of  Bezalel,  to  whom  the 
Spirit  gave  skill  in  craftsmanship  (Exodus  31:2-5),  it  is 
the  Christian  belief  that  this  distribution  of  capacities  is 
not  merely  a  matter  of  chance  but  is  under  the  operation 
of  God's  providence  through  his  Holy  Spirit.  The  special 
power  released  by  fear  or  sudden  emergency  is  rightly 
ascribed  to  the  Spirit's  presence.  One  does  on  such 
occasions  act  as  if  possessed. 

When  we  reach  the  higher  capacities  of  the  arts  and 
of  prophecy  and  preaching,  it  is  still  clearer  that  special 
enabling  grace  is  given  by  the  Holy  Spirit.  "To  one  is 
given  through  the  Spirit  the  utterance  of  wisdom,  and 
to  another  the  utterance  of  knowledge  according  to  the 
same  Spirit,  to  another  faith  by  the  same  Spirit,  to  another 
gifts  of  healing  by  the  one  Spirit,  to  another  the  working 
of  miracles,  to  another  prophecy,  to  another  the  ability 
to  distinguish  between  spirits,  to  another  various  kinds  of 
tongues,  to  another  the  interpretation  of  tongues.  All 
these  are  inspired  by  one  and  the  same  Spirit,  who 
apportions  to  each  one  individually  as  he  will"  (1 
Corinthians  12:8-11).  In  all  of  these  functions  there  is 
inborn  capacity  which  needs  to  be  developed  by  discipline. 
But  beyond  the  sweat  and  toil  there  is  inspiration  from 


/  Will  Pour  Out  My  Spirit  189 

above  which  enables  devoted  persons  to  outdo  themselves. 
In  the  whole  range  of  life's  concerns,  the  Christian  believer 
has  the  privilege  of  living  and  working,  serving  and 
growing  in  the  fellowship  of  the  Holy  Spirit.  For  we  live 
in  the  era  when  God  is  ready  to  pour  out  his  Spirit  upon 
all  flesh. 

Prayer  and  the  Life  of  the  Spirit 

In  harmony  with  man's  important  part  in  Christian 
experience,  there  are  many  things  a  man  can  do  to  foster 
the  life  of  the  Spirit.  All  the  exercises  and  disciplines  of 
daily  life  can  be  means  of  grace  if  they  are  engaged  in  as 
within  God's  providential  care.  Appointments  and  dis- 
appointments alike,  if  God's  will  in  them  is  discerned  and 
accepted,  can  be  occasions  of  spiritual  growth.  Acts  of 
kindness  and  mercy,  work  well  done,  and  responsible 
participation  in  family  and  community  life — all  human 
experience  forms  the  texture  and  context  of  the  life  of  the 
Spirit. 

Within  this  framework,  prayer  and  personal  com- 
munion with  God  are  the  vitalizing  center  of  the  spiritual 
life.  Prayer  and  the  Holy  Spirit  have  a  reciprocal  relation. 
We  receive  the  Holy  Spirit  in  answer  to  prayer.  "Ask, 
and  it  will  be  given  you.  ...  If  you  then,  who  are  evil, 
know  how  to  give  good  gifts  to  your  children,  how  much 
more  will  the  heavenly  Father  give  the  Holy  Spirit  to  those 
who  ask  him?"  (Luke  11:9,  13).  At  the  same  time  we  are 
helped  in  our  prayers  by  the  Spirit's  presence,  "for  we  do 
not  know  how  to  pray  as  we  ought,  but  the  Spirit  himself 
intercedes  for  us  with  sighs  too  deep  for  words"  (Romans 
8:26). 

Aspects  of  Prayer 

Prayer  is  of  many  types  and  forms.  The  following 
aspects  of  the  exercise  of  prayer  may  be  distinguished  even 


190  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

though  they  may  overlap  or  have  varied  combinations  of 
elements. 

Adoration  is  an  aspect  of  prayer.  We  pray  when  we 
contemplate  God's  greatness  and  his  goodness.  It  is  a 
rewarding  spiritual  exercise  to  dwell  upon  God's  nature — 
upon  his  love,  his  holiness,  his  power,  his  many-splendored 
being.  Prayer  in  this  aspect  is  the  exposing  of  one's  soul 
to  all  that  is  highest  and  best  and  in  active  appreciation 
of  what  is  good  and  true  and  right.  It  is  being  "open- 
doored  to  God."  Praise  and  adoration  become  natural 
expressions  of  the  soul  as  it  addresses  God  and  ascribes  to 
him  the  qualities  which  belong  to  him. 

Thanksgiving  is  likewise  an  aspect  of  prayer.  There 
seems  to  be  a  natural  gratitude  which  springs  up  when 
we  receive  gifts  and  rewards.  This  is  greatly  heightened 
when  we  stand  in  the  presence  of  the  giver.  Thanksgiving 
is  the  expression  of  this  gratitude  to  the  Great  Giver.  The 
spirit  of  gratitude  increases  as  we  recount  the  gifts.  "Count 
your  many  blessings,  name  them  one  by  one"  is  a  good 
exhortation.  There  is  no  better  place  to  take  hold  of 
prayer  than  in  this  aspect  of  thanksgiving. 

Confession  is  another  aspect  of  prayer.  It  is  a  natural 
result  and  a  logical  step  following  adoration  of  God  for 
his  goodness  and  thanks  to  him  for  his  bounty.  Nothing 
shows  us  up  so  thoroughly  as  this.  By  comparison  we  are 
unworthy  and  unprofitable  servants.  After  Isaiah  saw 
the  Lord  in  his  holiness  and  glory,  he  cried,  "Woe  is  me! 
For  I  am  lost;  for  I  am  a  man  of  unclean  lips,  and  I  dwell 
in  the  midst  of  a  people  of  unclean  lips  .  .  ."  (Isaiah  6:5). 
This  is  the  experience  of  repentance,  wherein  we  see 
ourselves  from  God's  point  of  view  and  we  are  ashamed  of 
ourselves.  The  prayer  of  confession  is  the  road  to  cleansing 
and  to  the  nurture  of  the  spiritual  life. 

Petition  is  an  aspect  of  prayer.  It  is  commonly  regarded 


/  Will  Pour  Out  My  Spirit  191 

as  the  essence  of  prayer.  Pray  and  beg  are  regarded  as 
synonyms.  But  we  have  seen  that  petition  stands  beside 
other  aspects  of  prayer.  Petition  is  in  true  perspective  after 
adoration,  thanksgiving,  and  confession.  These  three  are 
not  to  "soften  up"  God  so  that  he  will  grant  our  petitions, 
but  they  are  rather  to  prepare  us  to  ask  according  to  God's 
will  and  to  receive  his  gifts  as  his  responsive  children. 

Communion  is  also  an  aspect  of  prayer.  It  is  not 
specifically  a  step  in  prayer  but  rather  the  total  relationship 
of  prayer  as  a  divine-human  encounter.  It  is  living  in  the 
presence  of  God  and  being  in  the  fellowship  of  his  Spirit. 
Before,  during,  and  after  all  other  aspects  of  prayer,  we 
are  in  direct  communion  with  God  himself. 

Problems  About  Prayer 

As  universal  and  natural  as  prayer  seems  to  be,  it  is 
strange  that  many  men  fail  to  pray.  Even  the  disciples 
were  given  the  parable  of  the  importunate  widow  "to  the 
effect  that  they  ought  always  to  pray  and  not  lose  heart" 
(Luke  18:1-8).  What  keeps  men  from  praying? 

Some  refrain  from  praying  because  they  think  God 
is  too  busy  to  be  concerned  with  their  individual  petitions. 
Jesus  was  very  eager  to  make  it  clear  that  the  world  is  not 
too  complicated  for  God  to  manage.  The  very  hairs  of 
our  heads  are  numbered.  This  is  not  to  say  that  God  is 
cluttered  up  with  filing  cabinets  and  serial  numbers,  but 
it  is  a  vivid  way  of  saying  that  each  immortal  soul  is 
within  his  fatherly  care.  As  a  shepherd  cares  for  one  lamb 
out  of  a  hundred,  so  God  cares  for  each  one  of  his  children. 
He  knows  them  by  name  and  he  hears  their  whispered  and 
lonely  requests  before  they  are  fully  formed.  Nothing  is 
too  big  for  God  and  nothing  is  too  small. 

Some  refrain  from  praying  because  they  feel  the 
force  and  regularity  of  natural  law.    In  one  sense,  and 


192  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

often,  men  are  helped  by  this  fact.  The  law  of  the  harvest 
works  in  their  behalf.  If  God  were  a  God  of  caprice  there 
would  be  no  basis  for  expecting  him  to  grant  our  requests. 
It  is  the  regularities  of  God's  providence  which  are  the 
foundation  of  morality.  There  are  laws  of  the  spiritual 
life.  "He  who  sows  to  the  Spirit  will  from  the  Spirit  reap 
eternal  life"   (Galatians  6:8b). 

We  need  not  refrain  from  prayer,  however,  in  cases 
of  special  need,  as  if  God  could  not  change  his  usual  ways 
of  working.  God  is  himself  the  Lord  of  nature  and  the 
administrator  of  the  moral  order.  This  is  an  open  universe 
and  it  is  under  the  free  and  benevolent  control  of  our 
heavenly  Father.  We  can  pray  for  anything  at  all  and  if 
it  be  his  will  he  can  do  it.  There  is  point  to  the  advice 
often  heard:  "Take  everything  to  God.  Talk  everything 
over  with  God.   Leave  everything  to  God/' 

Others  refrain  from  prayer  because  of  the  problem 
of  "unanswered"  prayer.  This  is  a  baffling  experience 
indeed  and  it  cannot  be  dealt  with  by  glib  comments.  It 
helps  to  note,  however,  that  there  are  different  answers  to 
prayer.  God  answers  the  man  even  though  he  may  not 
grant  the  request.  Sometimes  the  answer  is  "No."  This 
was  the  case  with  Jesus'  anguished  petition  in  Gethsemane. 
It  was  not  possible  for  the  cup  to  be  removed  from  him 
(Mark  14:32-42).  It  was  the  case  with  Paul's  thorn  in  the 
flesh  (2  Corinthians  12:7-9).  Sometimes  the  answer  is  "Not 
yet,"  and  it  is  necessary  to  go  on  in  faith  and  patient 
endurance  until  in  God's  own  appointed  time  the  request 
is  granted. 

Still  others  refrain  from  prayer  because  they  have 
questions  about  praying  for  others.  Does  God  work 
directly  on  others  in  answer  to  our  petition?  Is  it  right 
for  him  to  invade  their  freedom  at  our  request?  All  we 
can  say  here  is  that  strong  love  for  others  makes  it  most 


/  Will  Pour  Out  My  Spirit  193 

natural  to  pray  for  them  just  as  we  would  pray  for 
ourselves.  We  need  a  renewed  sense  of  our  corporate 
unity  with  all  other  members  of  the  body  of  Christ.  We 
are  bound  together  in  a  bundle  of  life  so  that  "if  one 
member  suffers,  all  suffer  together;  if  one  member  is 
honored,  all  rejoice  together"  (1  Corinthians  12:26).  We 
need  a  fuller  understanding  of  our  unity  in  love  and  of 
the  bond  among  us  which  is  the  fellowship  of  the  Holy 
Spirit.  This  will  be  our  concern  in  the  next  chapter. 


CHAPTER  ELEVEN 


The  Holy  Spirit  and  the  Life  of  Fellowship 

The  holy  spirit  brings  men  into  his  fellowship  both 
through  their  private  individual  experience  and  through 
their  experience  in  group  life.  The  Holy  Spirit  comes  to 
them  as  private  individuals  in  inner  areas  of  experience 
which  they  do  not  share  with  others.  He  speaks  to  them 
an  individual  word  which  sometimes  leads  them  to  say, 
"We  must  obey  God  rather  than  man."  He  quickens  the 
conscience  and  sometimes  lays  private  claims  on  them 
which  are  more  imperious  than  all  the  cautions  or  counsels 
of  friends.  This  is  why  religion  is  defined  as  what  a  man 
does  in  his  solitariness.  Because  of  this  validation  by  an 
inner  voice,  lone  prophets  have  stood  out  against  all  their 
fellows  in  judgment  or  in  call  to  high  endeavor.  Were 
it  not  for  such  inner  validation  by  the  Holy  Spirit's 
presence  they  would  be  merely  deviant  individuals  who 
would  be  rightly  discounted  or  opposed.  But  because 
the  Spirit  of  truth  is  with  them,  they  do  not  walk  alone. 
One  with  God  is  a  majority.  Blessed  is  the  man  who  thus 
shares  in  fellowship  with  the  Holy  Spirit. 

The  Holy  Spirit  meets  men  also  in  fellowship  with 
others.  In  their  group  life  there  is  another  presence  in 
their  midst  who  binds  them  together.  This  togetherness 
which  they  have  is  what  is  variously  called  communion, 
community,  brotherhood,  or  fellowship.  In  this  sense  the 
fellowship  of  the  Holy  Spirit  is  not  only  the  participation 
a  man  has  directly  with  the  Holy  Spirit;  it  is  more 
specifically  the  fellowship  a  man  has  with  his  brothers 


The  Holy  Spirit  and  the  Life  of  Fellowship     195 

because  the  Holy  Spirit  binds  them  together.  The  Holy 
Spirit  thus  comes  at  a  man  through  his  experience  of 
fellowship  with  his  brothers.  God  can  do  many  things  for 
a  man  through  this  brotherhood  that  he  cannot  do  for 
him  directly  just  as  he  can  do  things  for  a  man  directly 
which  he  cannot  do  through  the  fellowship. 

Man  Is  Bipolar  in  His  Spiritual  Life 

It  is  important  to  remember  that  all  men  are  both 
private  individuals  and  participants  in  group  life.  No 
one  is  all  one  or  all  the  other.  Men  are  two-sided  or 
bipolar  persons,  and  God  comes  at  them  from  both  sides 
or  poles.  If  either  pole  is  overlooked  or  exaggerated  the 
man's  personality  becomes  distorted  and  out  of  balance. 
This  is  as  true  at  the  level  of  man's  religious  and  spiritual 
life  as  it  is  at  any  other  level.  If  the  individual  and  private 
part  of  man's  life  is  stunted  or  disregarded  he  is  deprived 
of  freedom,  individuality,  initiative,  and  creativity.  He  is 
merely  a  conformist,  a  cog  in  a  machine,  a  flat  and  colorless 
unit  in  the  mass.  He  asks  no  questions  and  makes  no 
responsible  judgments.  Societies,  cultures,  and  religious 
groups  made  up  of  such  docile  and  uniform  individuals 
tend  to  become  static,  conventional,  and  custombound. 
They  put  the  traditions  of  men  ahead  of  the  command- 
ment of  God  (Mark  7:9-13).  It  is  to  such  societies  that 
God  sends  his  nonconforming  prophets.  They  act  as 
gadflies,  agitators,  and  disturbers  of  the  people.  Such 
irritating  and  indigestible  personalities  are  often  them- 
selves out  of  balance  and  are  never  welcomed  by  their 
people.  But  God  uses  them  and  their  vision  of  truth  to 
bring  a  clear  and  corrective  word  of  judgment  to  his 
people.  ''Where  there  is  no  prophecy  the  people  cast  off 
restraint"  (Proverbs  29:18).  These  deviant  individuals 
are  used  by  the  Holy  Spirit  as  God's  gift  to  his  people. 


196  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

If  the  social  and  community  part  of  a  man's  life  is 
stunted  or  disregarded,  he  is  deprived  of  the  disciplines 
and  satisfactions  of  fellowship.  He  becomes  isolated, 
self-centered,  and  lonely.  He  misses  the  stimulus  and 
development  of  personality  which  can  take  place  only 
when  he  participates  in  wholesome  group  life.  His 
hungers  for  acceptance  and  love  are  starved  and  his  soul 
withers  when  he  is  cut  off  from  his  fellows.  Our  word 
idiot  comes  from  the  Greek  word  meaning  private, 
peculiar,  alone.  It  is  sad  when  a  child  is  born  thus  without 
adequate  mental  equipment  to  participate  in  social 
communication.  It  is  likewise  sad  when  by  selfishness  or 
a  false  notion  of  the  spiritual  life  persons  wall  themselves 
off  from  fellowship.  There  are  those  who  set  their  own 
spiritual  insights  and  judgments  against  all  others  so 
completely  that  they  shrivel  up.  They  claim  to  have 
private  wires  with  heaven.  Occasionally  they  are  right, 
to  be  sure,  but  usually  wisdom  is  found  in  the  multitude 
of  counsel.  Even  when  one  is  right  and  others  are 
mistaken,  the  Christian  should  speak  the  truth  in  love 
and  in  humility.  Such  Christian  graces  are  nurtured  in 
fellowship.  The  Holy  Spirit  meets  men  in  fellowship  and 
bestows  his  gifts  and  graces  on  them  as  they  live  together. 

Levels  of  Fellowship 

There  are  many  kinds  of  togetherness,  many  bonds 
that  tie  one  man  to  another. 

The  Brotherhood  of  Race 

Men  are  bound  together  by  blood  ties.  They  have 
a  biological  unity  with  each  other  from  the  time  of 
creation.  God  has  created  of  one  blood  every  nation  of 
men  on  all  the  face  of  the  earth.  This  is  brotherhood 
of  race.    It  is  an  elemental  level  of  fellowship.    All  men 


The  Holy  Spirit  and  the  Life  of  Fellowship     197 

"belong'  to  the  human  race.  That  is  their  "kind."  There 
are  many  variations  among  different  races  and  tribes.  But 
their  similarities  are  greater  than  their  differences.  This 
is  the  basic  level  of  fellowship  which  all  men  sustain  to 
each  other.  It  is  original  and  given  to  men  as  men.  They 
can  deny  it  formally  and  exclude  some  tribes  or  races  as 
"lesser  breeds  without  the  law."  But  they  cannot  escape  it. 
This  racial  level  of  fellowship  provides  the  basis  of  other 
levels,  although  it  does  not  of  itself  produce  them. 

The  Brotherhood  of  Place 

A  second  level  of  fellowship  is  the  sharing  of  a 
common  culture.  It  is  usually  a  common  racial  group 
which  shares  a  common  culture.  But  they  can  become 
separated  and  take  on  separate  cultures.  Or  people  of 
different  racial  stocks  can  share  the  same  culture.  They 
can  share  the  same  language,  political  affiliation,  historical 
experience,  and  economic  development.  Of  such  common 
fellowship  states  and  nations  consist.  They  share  the  same 
territory  and  economy  and  participate  in  the  same  common 
life.  This  cultural  level  of  fellowship  is  brotherhood  of 
place.  Those  who  are  in  it  rejoice  to  say,  "This  is  my  own, 
my  native  land."  This  level  of  fellowship  is  given  by 
God  and  is  under  his  providential  control.  He  determines 
their  "allotted  periods  and  the  boundaries  of  their 
habitation"  (Acts  17:26).  He  is  the  Lord  and  the  Judge  of 
the  nations. 

The  Brotherhood  of  Grace 

It  is  one  thing  to  be  born  of  the  same  stock  and  to 
share  a  common  economy  and  culture.  It  is  something 
quite  beyond  these  to  share  an  intimate  fellowship  of 
the  spirit.  This  is  fellowship  at  a  deeper  level.  Men  are 
often  close  together  in  space  and  still  far  apart  in  spirit. 
Intimate  spiritual  fellowship  is  often  furthered  by  racial 


198  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

kinship  and  by  participation  in  common  life,  but  it  goes 
beyond  them.  It  is  a  fellowship  and  sharing  of  the  deeper 
things  of  life — of  aspiration  and  ideals,  of  hope  and 
worship,  of  forgiveness  and  love.  In  short,  it  is  a  fellowship 
based  on  our  common  redemption  in  Christ — the  brother- 
hood of  grace.  This  brotherhood  strengthens  other  levels 
of  fellowship  and  also  has  qualities  of  its  own.  It  takes  on 
a  character  of  its  own.  It  fulfills  functions  of  its  own.  This 
is  the  fellowship  of  the  Holy  Spirit  that  came  to  early  and 
classic  expression  on  Pentecost  and  has  been  multiplied 
repeatedly  since  then. 

The  Meaning  of  Pentecost 

Pentecost  was  not  the  beginning  of  the  church,  for  the 
friends  and  followers  of  Jesus  had  already  been  with  him. 
Some  of  them  had  spent  three  years  in  his  company.  It 
was  not  the  first  manifestation  of  the  Holy  Spirit.  He  had 
been  active  on  occasions  in  the  Old  Testament  era  and 
he  had  been  especially  active  in  the  life  and  ministry  of 
Jesus  Christ  (Mark  1:10-12;  Luke  4:14,  18).  But  after 
Jesus  was  gone,  the  promise  of  Jesus  to  his  disciples  was 
fulfilled.  The  gift  of  the  Spirit's  presence  was  bestowed. 
As  Jeremiah  had  predicted  (31:31-34),  God  put  his  laws 
into  their  minds.  As  Joel  had  prophesied  (2:28),  God 
poured  out  his  Spirit  on  all  flesh.  This  experience  now 
became  universal  and  permanent.  After  the  teaching  and 
redeeming  work  of  Christ  and  after  a  period  of  desire  and 
waiting,  a  new  experience  of  fellowship  and  power  had 
come  upon  the  disciples.  God  fused  them  together  by  the 
fullness  of  his  own  presence. 

A  Deep  and  Intense  Experience 

This  new  fellowship  was  deep  and  intense.  The 
disciples  were  already  gathered  together  in  a  company  of 


The  Holy  Spirit  and  the  Life  of  Fellowship     199 

one  hundred  twenty.  They  were  of  one  accord  and  in 
one  place.  Thus  they  were  close  together  in  spirit  and 
in  space.  In  addition  to  all  these  elements,  something  new 
emerged — a  special  inrush  of  God's  own  Spirit  which 
bound  them  together  at  the  deepest  level  of  fellowship. 
There  occurred  a  miracle  of  communication  so  that  each 
understood  in  his  own  mother  tongue.  This  did  not 
eliminate  rational  discourse  but  they  were  put  into  such 
rapport  with  each  other  that  meanings  flowed  among  them 
in  extrarational  communication.  It  has  perhaps  never 
been  exactly  duplicated  in  all  its  forms.  But  often  when 
Christians  gather  together  in  preaching  and  worship  or 
in  Bible  study  and  prayer,  a  warm  presence  emerges  in 
their  midst  which  is  none  other  than  God's  own  Spirit. 
Sometimes  this  presence  is  discerned  in  a  "holy  hush"  and 
sometimes  it  is  so  disturbing  that  the  place  is  shaken 
(Acts  4:31).  These  experiences  are  more  than  ideas;  they 
are  events  of  participation  which  knit  people  together 
in  precious  and  glowing  fellowship. 

An  Inclusive  and  Unifying  Experience 

This  new  fellowship  was  inclusive  and  unifying. 
People  from  all  walks  of  life  and  from  widely  scattered 
backgrounds  were  drawn  into  it.  Three  thousand  souls 
were  added  in  one  day.  It  was  a  creative  togetherness  that 
broke  down  barriers  and  bound  people  together  in  the 
immediacy  of  God's  presence.  Persons  who  share  such 
creative  experiences  can  go  on  from  there  with  a  newly 
born  brotherhood.  They  become  a  new  people.  They 
belong  to  each  other  in  a  new  way.  The  middle  walls  of 
partition  are  broken  down  and  groups  formerly  hostile  are 
reconciled  and  bound  into  unity.  It  was  this  miracle  of 
unifying  fellowship  that  marked  the  early  church.  This 
was  the  beginning  of  the  "ecumenical"  movement. 


200  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

It  has  happened  many  times  since  as  these  early 
conditions  have  been  repeated.  The  writer  visited  the 
Garkida  Leper  Colony  in  Northern  Nigeria  and  attended 
a  worship  service  with  over  five  hundred  lepers.  There 
were  sixty-five  tribes  in  this  colony  and  they  spoke  fifty-one 
different  languages  and  dialects.  Mai  Sule,  the  "African 
Prince,"  led  the  group  in  worship  and  in  song.  Thirteen 
different  groups  sang  in  sequence,  each  using  their  native 
language.  Then  all  of  the  congregation  sang  together  out 
of  books  printed  in  six  languages.  It  was  a  miracle  to  see 
how  the  Spirit  of  God  came  upon  that  congregation  and 
unified  them  across  language  barriers.  Thus  Pentecost  ever 
overcomes  Babel. 

A  Morally  Uplifting  and  Purifying  Experience 

This  new  fellowship  was  morally  uplifting  and 
purifying.  Those  who  were  drawn  into  it  were  drawn 
into  acts  of  love  and  helpfulness.  They  brought  their 
goods,  their  money,  and  even  their  farms  and  laid  them 
at  the  apostles'  feet  for  distribution  as  any  had  need.  So 
discerning  and  purifying  was  this  fellowship  that  Ananias 
and  Sapphira  were  stricken  in  judgment  when  they  sought 
to  exploit  the  fellowship  by  deceit.  There  has  always  been 
a  danger  that  such  intense  religious  movements  tend  to 
run  into  irresponsible  excess.  Men — and  apparently 
women— tend  to  go  off  the  deep  end  in  such  forms  of 
spiritual  experience.  They  get  carried  away  and  substitute 
emotional  warmth  for  ethical  behavior.  The  New  Testa- 
ment did  not  make  this  error.  It  saw  truly  that  men  are 
moved  and  possessed  by  powers  beyond  themselves.  It 
saw  also  that  these  powers  are  both  good  and  evil,  and  it 
laid  stress  on  the  ability  of  "distinguishing  between  spirits" 
(1  Corinthians  12:10). 

The  fellowship  of  the  Holy  Spirit  is  distinguished  not 


The  Holy  Spirit  and  the  Life  of  Fellowship     201 

primarily  by  intensity  and  ecstasy  but  by  love.  All  the 
diverse  gifts  of  the  Spirit  (1  Corinthians  12,  13)  are  given 
for  the  upbuilding  of  the  fellowship  in  love.  The  test  of 
the  Holy  Spirit  is  the  fruit  of  his  presence — 'love,  joy, 
peace,  patience,  kindness,  goodness,  faithfulness,  gentle- 
ness, self-control"  (Galatians  5:22,  23).  The  members  of 
the  early  church  were  perhaps  unconventional  but  they 
were  exemplary.  The  word  holy  carried  a  strong  moral 
quality  and  was  not  limited  to  the  meanings  of  awe  or 
separated. 

An  Experience  of  Power 

This  new  fellowship  was  dynamic  and  filled  with 
power.  From  Pentecost  on,  the  Christians  were  marked 
by  courage,  irrepressibility,  boldness,  and  joy.  They  had 
a  contagious  sense  of  adequacy.  Persecution  and  threats 
could  not  stop  their  witnessing.  They  regarded  such 
persecution  and  suffering  as  a  cause  for  rejoicing  that  they 
were  worthy  to  be  witnesses.  Their  morale  was  high,  their 
faith  was  strong,  and  their  prayers  were  confident.  "And 
now,  Lord,  look  upon  their  threats,  and  grant  to  thy 
servants  to  speak  thy  word  with  all  boldness,  while  thou 
stretchest  out  thy  hand  to  heal,  and  signs  and  wonders 
are  performed  through  the  name  of  thy  holy  servant  Jesus" 
(Acts  4:29,  30).  They  had  power  to  witness  boldly,  power 
to  heal,  power  to  endure  persecution,  power  to  multiply. 

They  had  more  than  the  glowing  incandescence  of 
Pentecost  now.  They  also  had  the  slower-burning  fires  of 
enduring  faith.  They  had  more  than  espr it-de-corps;  they 
also  had  morale,  the  sustaining  will  to  carry  on  their  work 
and  their  witness.  We  can  look  back  across  the  years  and 
gather  strength  from  the  vindications  of  history.  We  can 
see  that  they  were  riding  the  wave  of  the  future.  But  they 
gained  their  strength  and  certainty  from  an  immediate 


202  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

presence.  They  were  sustained  by  the  fellowship  given  to 
them  by  God's  own  Spirit.  "And  all  that  believed  were 
together"   (Acts  2:44). 

An  Organ  of  Insight 

This  new  fellowship  discovered  truth  and  mediated 
guidance.  "The  Holy  Spirit  said,  'Set  apart  for  me 
Barnabas  and  Saul  for  the  work  to  which  I  have  called 
them'  "  (Acts  13:2).  Thus  a  movement  of  missionary 
expansion  was  started.  "For  it  has  seemed  good  to  the 
Holy  Spirit  and  to  us  .  .  ."  (Acts  15:28).  In  these  words 
they  prefaced  the  consensus  of  judgment  at  the  Jerusalem 
conference.  They  had  a  complicated  problem  of  the 
relation  of  Jews  and  Gentiles  within  the  church.  A 
conference  was  held  which  engaged  in  discussion,  testi- 
mony, and  deliberation.  It  concerned  the  whole  church 
and  they  sought  the  solution  together.  They  used  the 
usual  methods  of  seeking  a  wise  solution  but  they  felt 
a  leading  in  their  midst  which  was  more  than  their  pooled 
wisdom.  Theirs  was  a  fellowship  of  discernment  and 
guidance. 

Discussion  and  deliberation  are  not  merely  means 
of  securing  common  agreement  to  a  proposal.  They  are 
a  means  of  seeking  truth  and  guidance.  It  is  often  true,  to 
be  sure,  that  new  truth  arises  in  individual  minds — and 
in  minds  freed  from  the  meshes  of  immediate  environ- 
ment. But  such  creative  minds  themselves  are  nurtured 
and  informed  by  the  fellowship  in  which  they  function. 
Thus  there  are  "schools"  of  thought  and  creative  periods 
of  literature,  of  scientific  discovery,  of  art.  In  religion 
likewise  there  are  great  eras  of  reformulation  of  faith  and 
fresh  discernment  of  truth.  Group  life  when  lifted  to 
the  high  level  of  Holy  Spirit  fellowship  becomes  "an  organ 
of  insight."  It  is  especially  important  to  have  such  a  group 


The  Holy  Spirit  and  the  Life  of  Fellowship     203 

wrestle  together  with  their  problems  and  in  the  midst  of 
their  deliberations  seek  the  guidance  of  the  Holy  Spirit, 
who  is  in  their  midst.  Opinions  may  be  expressed.  Con- 
victions should  be  stated.  But  no  one  should  seek  to 
dominate  the  others.  All  should  seek  together  for  a  voice 
not  their  own.  In  such  exercise  wisdom  is  given  from  God. 

A  Matrix  of  Individual  Growth 

This  new  fellowship  became  an  evangelizing  and 
nurturing  instrument.  They  worked  sometimes  as  private 
individuals.  But  always  there  was  the  fellowship  to  which 
new  converts  were  joined.  On  one  day  there  were  three 
thousand  additions.  As  the  witness  was  faithfully  given, 
"more  than  ever  believers  were  added  to  the  Lord"  (Acts 
5:14).  Early  Christianity  was  strongly  corporate.  While 
individuals  found  new  personal  worth  in  Christ,  this 
enhancement  occurred  in  the  fellowship. 

It  may  be  difficult  to  find  proof  texts  in  the  New 
Testament  which  argue  that  men  must  join  a  fellowship 
to  be  saved.  One  is  practically  limited  to  Hebrews  10:25 
— "not  neglecting  to  meet  together,  as  is  the  habit  of  some, 
but  encouraging  one  another."  This  infrequent  reference 
is  due  to  the  fact  that  the  fellowship  is  taken  for  granted  as 
the  normal  evangelizing  and  nurturing  instrument.  It 
did  not  occur  to  them  that  anyone  could  live  a  Christian 
life  in  the  kind  of  isolation  which  marks  many  indi- 
vidualists today.  There  were  no  hotels  or  private  rooming 
houses  such  as  make  for  anonymity  today.  People  lived 
in  families  and  they  traveled  by  the  hospitality  of  friends. 
They  worked  as  slaves  or  in  guilds.  But  in  the  Christian 
fellowship  they  had  found  a  still  richer  mode  of  life.  It 
was  a  new  brotherhood.  They  were  no  longer  slave  or 
free,  barbarian  or  Greek — all  were  one  man  in  Christ 
Jesus.   This  fellowship  is  part  of  the  grace  of  the  gospel. 


204  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

They  regarded  themselves  as  the  household  of  God,  as 
the  body  of  Christ,  as  the  fellowship  of  the  Holy  Spirit. 
Being  baptized  into  Christ  was  to  become  a  member  of 
his  body  and  his  body  was  this  fellowship. 

This  corporate  aspect  of  salvation  is  especially  needed 
today  when  people  are  lost  in  loneliness.  They  see 
hundreds  of  their  fellows  each  day  as  they  rush  by  in 
crowds.  But  they  do  not  belong  to  them.  They  do  not 
know  each  other's  names  and  that  deepens  the  wells  of 
loneliness.  What  an  evangelizing  opportunity  Christian 
fellowships  have  as  they  proclaim  their  welcoming  gospel, 
"Come  with  us,  and  we  will  do  you  good"  (Numbers 
10:29).  This  also  lays  a  special  responsibility  upon 
Christian  fellowships  lest  they  themselves  become  barriers 
to  evangelism.  Men  sometimes  say  they  are  drawn  to 
Christ  but  they  find  the  church  forbidding  because  of 
hypocrisy  and  pride,  because  of  sin  and  shameful  behavior 
among  professed  Christians.  This  is,  of  course,  no 
adequate  excuse  for  them  but  it  does  show  how  important 
a  loving  and  exemplary  fellowship  is  in  the  tasks  of 
evangelism  and  nurture.  Let  us  put  out  the  welcome  mat 
and  put  a  light  in  every  window  so  that  more  than  ever 
believers  be  added  to  the  Lord. 

"Ardor  and  Order"1 
As  we  consider  the  meaning  of  Pentecost  we  see  how 
vivid,  spontaneous  and  free  the  early  church's  religious  life 
was.  In  comparison  with  it  our  own  often  seems  to  be 
fettered  with  rules,  programs,  definitions,  ritualism, 
budgets,  and  schedules.  We  frequently  regard  such  order 
and  forms  as  the  enemy  and  antithesis  of  the  spiritual  life. 
We  assume  that  if  we  got  rid  of  forms  and  rules  we  would 
increase  spiritual  depth. 

XA  phrase  from  John  A.   Mackay. 


The  Holy  Spirit  and  the  Life  of  Fellowship     205 

But  spirit  and  form  are  not  necessarily  enemies  of 
each  other.  These  forms  and  rules  can  be  used  as  means 
of  grace  for  furthering  the  spiritual  life.  The  experience 
of  Pentecost  occurred  on  a  stated  religious  day  in 
Jerusalem.  Neither  the  special  day  nor  the  temple 
area  hindered  their  life  of  fellowship.  These  furthered 
their  fellowship.  The  apostles'  doctrine  furthered  their 
fellowship.  The  breaking  of  bread  and  the  leadership  of 
the  apostles  furthered  their  fellowship.  Order  was  an  aid 
to  ardor.  In  the  distribution  of  their  daily  friinistration 
the  widows  of  the  Hellenists  were  neglected.  This  was 
not  for  lack  of  spiritual  fervor,  for  it  was  shortly  after 
Pentecost.  It  was  not  for  lack  of  goods,  for  they  had 
everything  in  common  and  many  brought  lands  and 
houses  into  the  common  treasury.  What  was  lacking  was 
precisely  the  requisite  organization  and  program  which 
would  express  their  generous  desires  and  promote  their 
fellowship.  So  it  is  with  all  religious  forms — they  can 
be  used  and  are  indeed  necessary  for  the  fostering  of  the 
spiritual  life. 

The  sabbath  was  made  for  man — not  for  him  to 
disregard  or  to  neglect,  but  precisely  as  an  aid  to  his 
spiritual  life.  We  need  structure  and  order  in  our 
spiritual  life.  They  are  means  of  grace.  We  need  stated 
places  for  common  worship  even  though  God  is  spirit  and 
we  must  worship  him  in  spirit  and  truth.  We  need  stated 
practices  to  foster  our  worship  even  though  God  is  always 
nearer  than  hands  and  feet.  We  need  special  persons  to 
guide  us  in  our  common  life,  even  though  all  believers 
are  priests.  We  need  special  periods  for  worship  even 
though  all  we  do  in  word  and  deed  is  done  unto  the  Lord. 
The  Lord's  Day  has  been  a  means  of  grace.  John  on  the 
lonely  isle  of  Patmos  wrote,  "I  was  in  the  Spirit  on  the 


206  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

Lord's  day"   (Revelation  1:10).   Such  religious  forms  and 
practices  are  in  the  interest  of  the  spiritual  life. 

Order  is  the  means  of  ardor  although  these  forms  will 
not  of  themselves  create  spiritual  life.  That  results  only 
from  the  presence  of  God  himself.  And  God  moves  into 
our  midst  in  response  to  our  welcome  and  desire.  The 
Spirit  of  God  comes  to  us  in  answer  to  prayer  and  as  a  gift 
to  our  surrendered  lives.  The  life  of  the  Spirit  is 
furthered  by  love  and  forgiveness  among  the  members  of 
the  fellowship.  It  is  furthered  by  our  faithful  witness  and 
compassionate  service  to  those  outside  the  fellowship.  As 
our  hearts  are  open  the  Spirit  of  God  indwells  us  and  binds 
us  together  more  closely  and  works  in  us  with  grace  and 
power.  May  the  fellowship  of  the  Holy  Spirit  be  with 
us  all. 

The  Gift  of  the  Spirit  and  the  Gifts  of  the  Spirit 

The  Spirit  of  God  comes  into  our  midst  as  a  gift  of 
God's  love.  He  fills  our  individual  lives  and  he  suffuses 
our  common  life.  He  blesses  us  with  his  own  personal 
presence  and  whatever  he  enables  us  to  do  he  does  from 
the  inside  out.  Being  in  our  midst  he  then  distributes  gifts 
and  functions  among  us  for  the  upbuilding  of  the  body 
in  love. 

These  gifts  are  varied  capacities  and  functions  which 
we  fulfill  in  the  fellowship.  Their  list  is  familiar:  the  work 
of  apostles,  prophesying,  teaching,  working  miracles, 
healing,  helping,  the  work  of  administrators,  speaking  in 
tongues,  interpreting  tongues  (1  Corinthians  12,  13). 
They  are  all  given  not  for  individual  exploitation  but  for 
the  common  good.  Some  of  these  gifts  and  functions  are 
higher  than  others.  In  Corinth  and  in  some  churches  today 
the  gift  of  tongues  or  ecstatic  speech  is  placed  at  the  top  as 
the  supreme  gift  of  the  Spirit.   Paul  puts  it  well  down  the 


The  Holy  Spirit  and  the  Life  of  Fellowship     207 

list.  "I  would  rather  speak  five  words  with  my  mind, 
in  order  to  instruct  others,  than  ten  thousand  words  in  a 
tongue"  (1  Corinthians  14:19).  We  are  asked  to  desire 
earnestly  the  higher  gifts  (12:31)  and  to  make  love  our 
aim  (14:1).  The  great  chapter  on  love  is  set  in  the  center 
of  this  Corinthian  problem  of  spiritual  gifts.  As  they  are 
exercised  in  love  they  make  for  the  edification  of  the  body. 
Thus  they  foster  the  fellowship  of  the  Holy  Spirit.  "The 
Spirit  and  the  gifts  are  ours." 

The  Fellowship  and  the  Church 

Such  a  fellowship  given  to  men  by  God's  own  presence 
is  the  essential  meaning  of  the  church.  It  is  not  primarily 
an  institution  but  a  fellowship.  The  institution  is  for 
furthering  the  fellowship.  It  is  the  function  of  the  fellow- 
ship, in  turn,  to  animate  the  institution.  When  the  church 
is  regarded  primarily  as  an  institution  or  when  it  seeks  to 
perpetuate  itself  as  an  institution  it  tends  to  become  a 
barrier  to  fellowship.  The  church  then  fails  in  her  mission. 
Judgment  falls  upon  the  church  which  fails  to  foster 
fellowship.  But  God's  richest  blessing  is  given  when  the 
church  remembers  her  primary  nature  and  mission.  Let 
the  church  foster  fellowship  across  racial  and  class  barriers. 
Let  there  be  twos  and  threes  gathered  together  within  her 
walls.  Let  grievances  be  forgiven  and  reconciliation  be 
effective  among  her  members.  Let  there  be  love  and 
brotherhood  and  peace.  The  church  is  then  the  body  of 
Christ,  the  household  of  God,  the  fellowship  of  the  Holy 
Spirit. 


CHAPTER  TWELVE 


I  Will  Build  My  Church 


The  word  church  is  used  in  varied  ways.  It  sometimes 
refers  to  public  worship  when  we  "attend  church."  It  often 
refers  to  the  building  where  worship  is  carried  on.  It  is 
used  in  an  institutional  sense  when  we  speak  of  church 
and  state  as  parallel  terms.  Its  primary  reference  is  to  a 
community  of  people.  As  we  saw  in  the  above  chapter,  it 
is  essentially  a  fellowship.  The  word  church  comes  from 
the  Greek  word  kuriakon,  meaning  the  Lord's  house.1  This 
word  does  not  appear  in  the  Bible.  It  refers  primarily 
to  the  house  of  worship  whereas  the  Biblical  terms  center 
specifically  in  the  congregation.  Among  the  many  terms 
used  we  may  note  these  familiar  ones:  body  of  Christ 
(Romans  12:4,  5;  1  Corinthians  12:12-27);  brethren 
(Romans  8:12);  ekklesia,  or  people  of  God  (1  Corinthians 
1:2);  flock  of  God  (Acts  20:28);  the  household  of  God 
(Ephesians  2:19);  the  Israel  of  God  (Galatians  6:16);  a 
chosen  race,  a  royal  priesthood,  a  holy  nation,  God's  own 
people  (1  Peter  2:9). 

The  Origin  of  the  Church 

From  the  names  mentioned  above  there  is  a  clear 
rootage  of  the  church  in  the  Israel  of  the  Old  Testament. 
Indeed,  the  idea  of  a  chosen  people  with  a  special  mission 
can  be  seen  in  God's  call  to  Abraham.   "And  I  will  make 


1  Alan  Richardson  (ed.),  A  Theological  Wordbook  of  the  Bible  (New  York: 
Macmillan,  1956),  page  46.  Cf.  Middle  English  chirche,  Scottish  kirk,  Dutch 
kerk,  German  Kirche. 


/  Will  Build  My  Church  209 

of  you  a  great  nation,  and  I  will  bless  you,  and  make  your 
name  great,  so  that  you  will  be  a  blessing  .  .  .  ;  and  by 
you  all  the  families  of  the  earth  will  bless  themselves" 
(Genesis  12:2,  3).  This  same  pattern  of  a  special  com- 
munity with  a  special  mission  is  set  forth  in  the  Mosaic 
covenant  at  Sinai.  "Now  therefore,  if  you  will  obey  my 
voice  and  keep  my  covenant,  you  shall  be  my  own  posses- 
sion among  all  peoples;  for  all  the  earth  is  mine,  and  you 
shall  be  to  me  a  kingdom  of  priests  and  a  holy  nation" 
(Exodus  19:5,  6a). 

Israel  was  to  be  a  people  of  God's  own  special  pos- 
session. But  it  also  had  a  special  mission  in  the  world. 
It  was  to  be  a  kingdom  of  priests  mediating  God's  blessings 
to  the  nations.  Throughout  Israel's  history  there  was 
always  the  temptation  and  the  tendency  to  accept  God's 
special  favors  but  to  neglect  the  obligation  of  ministry  to 
the  nations.  The  prophets  had  to  chide  Israel  for  this 
neglect  and  to  set  God's  call  before  them  again.  "It  is  too 
light  a  thing  that  you  should  be  my  servant  to  raise  up  the 
tribes  of  Jacob  and  to  restore  the  preserved  of  Israel;  I  will 
give  you  as  a  light  to  the  nations,  that  my  salvation  may 
reach  to  the  end  of  the  earth"  (Isaiah  49:6).  Israel  was 
faithless  in  this  mission  and  calamity  overtook  the  nation. 
They  were  carried  into  captivity  and  dispersed.  But  the 
hope  of  fulfillment  still  rested  in  a  faithful  remnant  (Isaiah 
10:20-22). 

While  this  unfulfilled  mission  of  Israel  provides  the 
framework  and  background  of  the  church,  the  actual 
founding  of  the  church  was  the  creative  and  original  work 
of  Jesus  Christ.  He  had  to  screen  out  false  notions  of  glory 
and  power.  Current  messianic  expectations  were  rejected 
and  he  espoused  the  role  of  a  servant.  He  undertook  a 
mission  of  humility  and  loving  service.  He  called  people 
to  a  higher  righteousness.   He  followed  God's  will  into  the 


210  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

path  of  redemptive  suffering  and  gave  his  life  a  ransom 
for  many. 

In  the  midst  of  this  ministry  he  inaugurated  a  new 
movement  centering  in  an  inner  fellowship  of  disciples. 
"And  he  appointed  twelve,  to  be  with  him,  and  to  be  sent 
out  to  preach  and  have  authority  to  cast  out  demons" 
(Mark  3:14,  15).  Here  was  the  nucleus  of  a  new  com- 
munity. It  had  its  own  inner  life  in  his  fellowship — "to 
be  with  him."  It  had  also  its  mission  in  the  world — "to  be 
sent  out  to  preach  and  have  authority  to  cast  out  demons." 
This  company  of  the  friends  of  Jesus  grew  in  maturity  and 
understanding.  They  came  to  see  that  Jesus  was  "the 
Christ,  the  Son  of  the  living  God."  This  discerning  insight 
was  evoked  by  Jesus'  questionings  about  who  he  was  and  it 
was  voiced  by  Peter,  the  "key  man"  of  the  disciples.  On 
the  occasion  of  this  confession  Jesus  declared  his  intention: 
"I  will  build  my  church"    (Matthew  16:13-20). 

The  Roman  Catholics  regard  this  as  the  setting  up 
of  the  institutional  church  with  Peter  as  its  chief  corner- 
stone and  authoritative  head.  Protestants  have  objected 
to  this  interpretation  of  the  phrase,  "upon  this  rock."  They 
have  argued  that  "this  rock"  referred  to  Peter's  confession, 
"You  are  the  Christ,  the  Son  of  the  Living  God,"  rather 
than  to  Peter  himself.  There  is  suggestive  merit  to  Floyd 
Filson's  idea  that  Jesus  did  indeed  refer  to  Peter  as  the 
"key  man"  of  the  group  and  that  he  gave  him  special 
responsibilities  of  leadership  of  this  early  Christian  com- 
munity.2 As  a  matter  of  historic  fact  it  was  Peter  who  led 
in  choosing  a  successor  to  Judas  among  the  Twelve.  He 
preached  boldly  on  Pentecost.  He  nerved  the  church  to 
endure  persecution. 

But  far  more  than  on  Peter  or  other  leaders,  and  more 


2  Pioneers    of    the   Primitive    Church    (New   York:     Abingdon    Press,    1940), 
page  33. 


/  Will  Build  My  Church  211 

than  on  Peter's  confession  or  other  valid  beliefs,  the 
church  was  established  on  the  plinth,  or  base,  of  Jesus 
Christ  himself.  Christ  was  the  chief  cornerstone  of  the 
church.  He  was  and  is  the  magnetic  center  of  the  Christian 
fellowship.  "For  no  other  foundation  can  anyone  lay  than 
that  which  is  laid,  which  is  Jesus  Christ"  (1  Corinthians 
3:11).  The  origin  of  the  church  centered  in  him  and  he 
brought  it  into  being  among  his  followers.  He  bound 
them  to  himself  in  the  fellowship  and  symbols  of  their 
last  supper  together.  He  showed  himself  alive  on  the  first 
Easter  evening  in  the  breaking  of  bread  (Luke  24:28-35). 
He  gave  them  a  clear  mission  in  the  world  under  his 
authority  and  in  his  continuing  presence  (Matthew  28: 
18-20).  He  promised  them  power  to  carry  out  this  mission, 
and  his  promise  was  fulfilled  on  Pentecost.  The  church  was 
founded  by  Christ  and  on  Christ.  This  foundation  is  so 
solid  and  enduring  that  "the  powers  of  death  shall  not 
prevail  against  it"   (Matthew  16:18). 

The  Nature  of  the  Church 

If  we  seek  to  understand  the  nature  of  the  church 
by  specific  definitions  we  note  at  once  a  wide  variety  of 
viewpoints.  For  the  Roman  Catholic  the  church  is  a  "body 
of  men  united  together  by  the  profession  of  the  same 
Christian  faith  and  by  participation  in  the  sacraments, 
under  governance  of  lawful  pastors,  more  especially  the 
Roman  pontiff,  the  sole  vicar  of  Christ  on  earth."3  For  the 
Eastern  Orthodox  the  church  is  the  worshiping  com- 
munity, the  nation  at  prayer.  "It  is  the  mystical  and 
sacramental  unity  of  all  believers,  past,  present,  and  future, 
with  one  another  and  with  the  only  head  of  the  church, 


3  W.  A.  Visser  't  Hooft  and  J.  H.  Oldham,  The  Church  and  Its  Function  in 
Society   (London:    Allen  and  Unwin,  1938),  page  28. 


212  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

Jesus  Christ.*  For  the  Anglicans  the  church  is  "the 
extension  of  the  incarnation."5  For  the  Lutherans  the 
church  is  the  congregation  of  saints  in  which  the  gospel  is 
purely  taught  and  the  sacraments  rightly  administered.8 
The  Reformed  churches  lay  special  emphasis  on  the  in- 
visible church  which  is  "the  society  of  those  whom  God 
has  chosen  to  save,  which  cannot  be  fully  perceived  by 
our  eyes."7 

Simpler  and  more  practical  definitions  may  be  given. 
"The  church  is  the  organized  body  of  Christians  who  work 
together,  as  the  members  of  a  body,  to  promote  the  king- 
dom of  God."8  "The  Church  is  the  fellowship  of  the 
'Saints'  attached  by  bonds  of  devotion  to  their  Lord  and  to 
one  another."9  "The  Church  ...  is  where  Christ  is, 
living  and  reigning,  in  the  midst  of  his  gathered  people."10 
"The  Church  is  .  .  .  God's  community  of  discipleship, 
consisting  of  those  who  bear  a  vital  personal  faith-love 
relationship  to  Jesus  Christ  as  Savior  and  Lord.  .  .  .  The 
church  is  the  fellowship  of  'sinners  saved  by  grace'  who  are 
at  once  also  'the  saints  striving  after  holiness.'  ""  Such 
attempts  to  sharpen  the  nature  of  the  church  into  a  concise 
definition  tend  to  be  so  general  that  they  miss  much  of 
her  concrete  richness  or  they  tend  to  be  so  specific  on  one 
point  that  they  omit  other  important  facets  of  her  complex 
variety.  It  is  helpful  therefore  to  look  at  a  series  of 
bipolarities  in  the  nature  of  the  church. 

4  Ibid.,  page  34. 
6  Ibid.,  page  38. 

6  Ibid.,  pages  40,  41. 

7  Ibid.,  page  49. 

8D.    W.    Kurtz,    Studies    in   Doctrine    (Elgin:     Brethren    Publishing    House, 
1919),  page  57. 

9  Warren  W.   Slabaugh  in  George  W.   Richards,  et  ah,   The  Nature  of  the 
Church   (Chicago:    Willett,  Clark  and  Company,  1945),  page  73. 

10  P.   K.   Regier,   et  al,    The  Believers3   Church    (Newton,   Kansas:     General 
Conference  Mennonite  Church,  1955),  page  7. 

11  Ibid.,  pages  7,  8. 


/  Will  Build  My  Church  213 

Some  Bipolarities 

The  church  is  both  divine  and  human.  She  is  divine 
in  that  she  is  the  people  of  God,  the  body  of  Christ,  the 
fellowship  of  the  Holy  Spirit.  In  all  of  these  Biblical 
figures,  it  is  clearly  implied  that  God  is  in  the  midst  of 
her.  God's  will  is  her  standard  of  value  and  of  behavior. 
Christ's  redemptive  work  brought  her  into  being.  Christ 
is  her  bridegroom  and  her  Lord.  She  is  in  this  sense  a 
holy  community.  By  origin  and  by  intention  the  church  is 
not  just  another  grouping  of  men  for  convenient  purposes. 
She  is  the  ekklesia  or  people  of  God,  called  out  as  his 
own  household.  She  is  holy  in  that  forgiveness  of  sins  and 
personal  renewal  provide  the  gateway  to  membership  in 
her  fellowship.  She  is  holy  in  that  her  members  are  called 
to  be  perfect  as  God  is  perfect,  to  seek  first  God's  kingdom 
and  his  righteousness.  They  are  to  make  love  their  aim, 
to  put  on  love,  to  build  up  their  corporate  life  in  love.  The 
church  is  holy  in  that  she  is  the  pillar  and  ground  of  truth. 
In  all  these  ways  the  church  is  a  divine  fellowship.  But 
she  is  also  a  human  fellowship.  She  was  inaugurated  by 
Jesus  Christ  in  the  days  of  his  flesh.  Her  members  are 
holy  only  because  their  sins  are  forgiven  by  grace  and 
her  trespasses  are  not  counted  against  her. 

The  church  is  human  in  that  she  needs  constant 
renewal  by  confession,  forgiveness,  and  forbearing  love; 
in  that  she  needs  constant  nurture  and  discipline  for  the 
perfecting  of  the  saints.  She  is  all  too  human  when  one 
reviews  the  record  of  the  actual  church.  This  is  not 
peculiar  to  eras  of  apostasy  or  to  congregations  especially 
wretched  in  their  condition.  All  the  Christian  groups 
described  in  the  New  Testament  are  laggards  in  love  and 
under  strain  of  weakness  and  waywardness.  There  is  the 
constant  need  of  correction,  reform,  reconciliation,  and 
renewal.  There  are  minimum  standards  to  be  maintained 


214  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

and  outer  limits  of  tolerance  beyond  which  a  brother  is 
"as  a  Gentile  and  a  tax-collector"  (Matthew  18:17).  But 
all  exclusive  boundaries  and  all  eras  and  areas  of  renewal 
leave  the  empirical  church  all  too  human. 

Christian  saints  are  people  who,  having  received 
forgiving  and  enabling  grace,  are  still  in  process  of 
becoming  saints.  Both  "the  greatness  and  the  wretched- 
ness of  the  church"  grow  out  of  the  fact  that  she  is  both  a 
divine  and  a  human  fellowship.  Human,  all  too  human, 
indeed.  But  called  to  be  saints,  called  out  as  a  holy  com- 
munity, to  be  nurtured  "to  mature  manhood,  to  the 
measure  of  the  stature  of  the  fullness  of  Christ" 
(Ephesians  4:13). 

The  church  is  a  fellowship  both  unified  and  diverse. 
In  essence  the  church  is  one  because  she  is  the  "church 
of  God."  Even  as  a  local  congregation  in  Corinth  she  is 
not  called  the  Corinthian  church  but  "the  church  of  God 
which  is  at  Corinth"  (1  Corinthians  1:2).  The  church  is 
one  in  origin,  in  essence,  and  in  destiny.  "There  is  one 
body  and  one  Spirit,  just  as  you  were  called  to  the  one  hope 
that  belongs  to  your  call,  one  Lord,  one  faith,  one  baptism, 
one  God  and  Father  of  us  all"  (Ephesians  4:4-6).  As  the 
body  of  Christ  the  church  is  one.  As  the  bride  of  Christ 
she  is  one.  "Is  Christ  divided?"  (1  Corinthians  1:13). 
Amid  all  the  diversities  of  location,  type,  maturity, 
organization,  and  practice,  the  church  is  essentially  one. 

The  ecumenical  movement  is  sustained  by  this  basic 
and  ancient  doctrine  of  the  unity  of  the  church.  This  is 
also  the  one  hope  of  unity  in  a  divided  world.  We  look 
elsewhere  in  vain  for  any  adequate  basis  for  world  brother- 
hood. Here  is  a  fabric  of  community  which  crosses  racial, 
economic,  and  cultural  lines.  "There  is  neither  Jew  nor 
Greek,  there  is  neither  slave  nor  free,  there  is  neither 


I  Will  Build  My  Church  215 

male  nor  female;  for  you  are  all  one  in  Christ  Jesus" 
(Galatians  3:28). 

While  the  church  is  thus  one  in  inner  essence,  she  is 
also  diverse  and  multiple  in  actuality.  This  is  the  case 
in  the  New  Testament.  There  are  many  churches  in  terms 
of  local  congregations — the  churches  of  Syria  and  Cilicia 
(Acts  15:41),  the  churches  in  Judea  (Galatians  1:22),  the 
seven  churches  in  Asia  (Revelation  1:4).  Churches 
differed  also  in  type  and  temper.  There  were  the  Hebrews 
and  the  Hellenists  in  Jerusalem  (Acts  6:1-6).  Filson 
suggests  that  these  represented  separate  congregations  with 
one  centering  at  the  temple  using  the  Aramaic  language 
and  the  other  centering  in  a  synagogue  and  using  the 
Greek  language.12  There  were  churches  of  the  uncircum- 
cised  Gentiles  and  churches  of  the  circumcised  Jews,  and 
mixed  congregations  as  in  Antioch   (Galatians  2:7-13). 

This  multiplicity  was  the  sign  of  life  and  of  growth. 
It  was  in  fulfillment  of  the  Great  Commission  and  the 
mark  of  God's  blessing  on  the  church.  It  was  the  fruit 
of  the  "furtherance  of  the  gospel."  This  variation  in  type 
and  temper  was  also  regarded  as  a  good  thing.  The  prin- 
ciple of  diversity  was  regarded  not  as  a  compromise  or  as 
a  concession  to  human  frailty  but  as  a  special  blessing 
from  God.  Varieties  of  gifts,  of  service,  of  working  were 
all  from  God  (1  Corinthians  12:4-11).  There  was  no 
requirement  of  tailor-made  uniformity  in  the  New  Testa- 
ment churches.  The  variety  was  part  of  "the  unsearchable 
riches  of  Christ"  and  "the  manifold  wisdom  of  God" 
(Ephesians  3:8-10). 

When,  however,  this  multiplicity  and  variety  led  to 
jealousy,  divisiveness,  and  party  strife,  it  was  condemned. 
It  was  schism  in  the  body  and  those  who  thus  did  not 


12  0£.  cit.,  pages  69,  70. 


216  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

discern  the  body  were  profaning  the  body  and  blood  of 
the  Lord  (1  Corinthians  11:17-27). 

So  it  is  in  the  churches  today.  The  fact  of  multiplicity 
is  a  good  thing  and  is  a  mark  of  vitality  and  growth.  Let 
the  churches  be  fruitful  and  multiply,  in  fulfillment  of 
their  mission.  The  principle  of  variety  is  also  a  good 
thing.  There  is  no  call  for  all  churches  to  be  monotonously 
alike.  There  is  no  sanction,  however,  for  party  strife, 
jealousy,  or  arrogance  among  churches.  Let  their  variety 
be  maintained  in  terms  of  mutual  respect,  co-operation, 
and  special  vocation  in  witness  and  in  work. 

The  various  families  or  groupings  of  churches  are 
sometimes  organized  on  a  national  or  geographical  basis. 
In  many  modern  cases  they  are  organized  on  the  basis  of 
common  beliefs  and  polity.  These  groupings  are  usually 
called  denominations.  Sometimes  the  smaller  ones  are 
called  sects,  the  term  being  used  as  a  derogatory  one 
because  they  are  regarded  as  having  cut  themselves  off  from 
the  body.  Some  form  of  naming  or  "denomination"  is 
necessary  to  designate  organized  and  active  bodies.  To 
name  a  church  "Undenominational"  is  a  contradiction  in 
terms.  To  separate  or  cut  oneself  off  for  free  functioning 
or  a  special  vocation  need  not  be  derogatory.  Often  such 
special  groups  have  a  corner  of  the  truth  to  which  it  is 
their  vocation  to  bear  witness.  When  they  think  they  have 
a  corner  on  the  truth  they  are  truly  sectarian  whether  they 
are  large  churches  or  small  ones.  Bigotry  and  selfishness  in 
such  groups  of  churches  are  indeed  a  profaning  of  the  body 
of  Christ.  The  same  is  true  of  quarreling,  rivalry,  and 
slander  among  them.  If,  however,  they  regard  themselves 
as  branches  of  the  larger  vine  or  as  members  of  the  body, 
they  can  be  used  of  God  for  special  prophetic  witness 
and  for  vigorous  and  devoted  ministry.  The  church  is 
thus  both  unified  and  diverse,  one  and  many. 


/  Will  Build  My  Church  217 

The  church  is  a  fellowship  in  the  world  but  not  of 
the  world  (John  17:16,  18).  The  church  is  in  the  world 
which  God  made  and  which  he  so  loved  that  he  gave 
his  Son  to  save  it.  The  church  is  a  historic  community  set 
up  by  Jesus  Christ  in  the  days  of  his  flesh.  It  began  in 
Jerusalem  and  it  has  spread  out  to  Judea  and  Samaria 
and  unto  the  uttermost  parts  of  the  world.  Whatever  we 
may  think  of  the  invisible  church,  the  church  we  discover 
in  the  New  Testament  is  very  much  visible — living 
epistles  "to  be  known  and  read  by  all  men"  (2  Corinthians 

3:2). 

The  church  is  sent  into  all  the  world  with  its  great 
redemptive  mission.  It  seeks  to  do  God's  will  on  earth  as 
it  is  done  in  heaven.  There  is  no  Weltflucht  or  escape 
from  life  indicated  in  the  Bible.  The  Christian  community 
is  an  earthy  and  realistic  group  of  people — it  is  in  the 
world.  But  it  is  not  of  the  world.  It  is  a  colony  of 
heaven  (Philippians  3:20).  Its  center  of  gravity  is  literally 
out  of  this  world.  Its  origin  is  from  heaven.  Its  object  of 
devotion  and  its  goal  of  endeavor  are  in  heaven.  Its 
ultimate  destiny  is  in  heaven. 

On  the  basis  of  this  duality  the  church  is  both  an 
inclusive  and  an  exclusive  fellowship. 

It  is  inclusive  in  its  concern  for  all  men  in  all  their 
need.  All  men  are  brethren  for  whom  Christ  died.  It  is 
inclusive  in  its  prophetic  and  evangelistic  mission — into 
all  the  world.  It  is  inclusive  in  that  it  includes  in  its 
membership  men  from  every  class  and  tongue  and  race. 
It  is  inclusive  in  that  its  members  vary  widely  in  maturity 
and  saintliness.  All  are  saved  by  grace  and  are  still  un- 
profitable servants. 

It  is  exclusive  in  that  it  is  a  community  of  faith  in 
Jesus  Christ  as  Savior  and  Lord  of  the  church.  Those  who 
do  not  own  him  as  Savior  and  Lord  are  excluded.  "Anyone 


218  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

who  does  not  have  the  Spirit  of  Christ  does  not  belong  to 
him"  (Romans  8:9).  A  man  is  not  included  on  the  basis 
of  his  natural  birth  but  on  the  basis  of  his  spiritual  rebirth. 
"If  anyone  is  in  Christ,  he  is  a  new  creation"  (2  Corin- 
thians 5:17). 

It  is  exclusive  in  that  its  members  are  to  be  earnest 
disciples  of  Christ.  "He  who  does  not  take  his  cross  and 
follow  me  is  not  worthy  of  me"  (Matthew  10:38).  This  call 
to  discipleship  is  the  basis  of  the  principle  of  separatism. 
"What  partnership  have  righteousness  and  iniquity?  Or 
what  fellowship  has  light  with  darkness?  What  accord  has 
Christ  with  Belial?"  (2  Corinthians  6:14,  15).  This  call 
to  discipleship  is  also  the  basis  of  church  discipline.  The 
church  is  to  labor  for  the  upbuilding  of  its  members, 
speaking  the  truth  in  love. 

It  is  exclusive  in  that  it  witnesses  against  evil.  In 
drawing  the  line  between  the  church  and  the  world,  some 
churches  have  been  quite  inclusive  and  have  regarded  the 
church  as  containing  the  whole  community,  as  in  the 
state  church.  They  may  have  drawn  a  line  between 
"Christendom"  and,  say,  "heathendom"  or  the  Moslem 
world.  But  within  their  own  Christian  nation  all  persons 
were  baptized  into  the  church  as  infants.  The  "world" 
was  at  most  a  name  for  the  sinful  tendencies  of  the  people. 

Other  churches  have  been  quite  exclusive  and  have 
limited  their  membership  to  "believers."  They  have 
regarded  infant  baptism  as  insufficient  and  have  required 
rebaptism  of  those  who  had  been  baptized  in  infancy 
(hence  the  words  Anabaptist  and  Wiedertaufer).  These 
"gathered"  churches  have  usually  set  high  standards  of 
Christian  behavior  for  their  members  and  have  required 
a  large  degree  of  conformity.  They  have  lifted  up  the  call 
to  discipleship  in  the  rigorous  terms  set  by  Jesus  Christ 
himself  (Mark  8:34).  This  puts  loyalty  to  Christ  above  all 


/  Will  Build  My  Church  219 

other  loyalties  however  high  and  calls  for  sacrifice  and  risk 
of  persecution.  The  church,  in  this  view,  is  against  the 
world.  It  has  walls.  "This  Christian  Puritanism  is  no 
abstract  theory  of  life,  founded  on  a  narrow  theology,  but 
is  born  of  a  realistic  sense  of  the  value  of  individual 
human  lives."13 

This  position  is  not  taken  for  the  sole  purpose  of 
keeping  the  church  pure  ("klein  aber  rein").  It  is  felt 
that  the  obscuring  of  the  line  between  right  and  wrong 
weakens  the  church's  redeeming  power.  Christian  men 
who  are  unduly  tolerant  cannot  bring  other  men  where 
they  themselves  are.14  In  whatever  manner  the  formal 
lines  may  be  drawn  around  the  Christian  fellowship  there 
should  always  be  at  the  center  of  it  a  devoted  core  or 
faithful  remnant  who  take  the  call  to  discipleship  with 
high  seriousness. 

Others  may  be  regarded  as  falling  in  concentric  circles 
around  them:15  the  ordinary  Christians  as  a  body  of  formal 
members;  then  a  borderline  group  more  or  less  informed 
by  Christian  beliefs  and  standards;  and,  beyond  that,  the 
non-Christian  "world."  These  surrounding  groups  act 
both  as  insulators  and  as  mediators  between  the  inner  core 
and  the  world.  The  faithful  remnant  should  always  offer 
both  judgment  and  invitation  to  the  others,  maintaining 
a  redemptive  tension  between  the  church  and  the  world. 

The  Kingdom  of  God  and  the  Church 

The  kingdom  of  God  is  best  thought  of  in  terms  of 
the  rule  of  God.  The  emphasis  is  on  his  kingship  more 
than  on  a  particular  territory  where  he  rules.  In  the  Bible 


13  R.   H.   Strachan,    The  Second  Epistle   of  Paul   to    the   Corinthians    (New 
York:    Harper,  1935),  page  5. 

14  Ibid.,  page  6. 

15  This  conception  is  taken  from  a  lecture  by  Dr.  John  Coleman  Bennett. 


220  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

God  is  regarded  as  the  sovereign  ruler  of  all  the  world. 
His  kingdom  is  everlasting  (Psalm  145: 13)  as  he  rules  with 
authority  and  power  over  the  natural  and  the  moral 
order.  In  this  sense  God's  kingdom  has  always  been 
established.  The  life  of  men  and  nations  has  always  been 
within  the  framework  of  his  kingly  providence.  His  kingly 
rule  is  over  them  as  eternal  fact  and  standing  claim.  All 
we  have  said  in  earlier  chapters  about  God's  fatherly  rule 
is  the  foundation  of  the  kingdom  doctrine.  "Our  Father 
who  art  in  heaven.  .  .  .  Thine  is  the  kingdom"  (Matthew 
6:9,  13). 

The  kingdom  of  God  is  also  a  kingdom  which  came 
to  hand  in  the  redemptive  ministry  of  Jesus  Christ,  as  we 
noted  in  earlier  chapters.  He  inaugurated  his  work  with 
the  declaration,  "The  time  is  fulfilled,  and  the  kingdom  of 
God  is  at  hand;  repent,  and  believe  in  the  gospel"  (Mark 
1:15).  In  the  parallel  text  of  Matthew  4:17,  the  term 
kingdom  of  heaven  implies  clearly  that  the  two  phrases  are 
identical  in  meaning.  Jesus  identified  his  ministry  of 
compassion  as  the  coming  to  hand  of  the  kingdom  (Mat- 
thew 12:28;  Luke  10:9).  His  kingdom  is  one  of  high 
character  and  of  a  call  to  righteous  living  (Matthew  5  and 
6).  His  kingdom  is  at  hand  when  men  are  born  again  from 
above  (John  3:3,  5)  and  when  they  walk  in  the  path  of 
discipleship  (Luke  9:57-62).  The  kingdom  is  at  hand  in 
the  preaching  of  the  Word  (Luke  8:9-11)  and  in  the 
establishment  of  the  church    (Matthew  16:19). 

In  all  these  ways  Jesus  Christ  regarded  his  coming 
into  the  world  as  the  inrush  and  coming  of  God's  rule  or 
kingdom.    He  came  to  call  men  to  this  kingdom. 

His  was  a  call  of  tremendous  urgency,  a  call  to  radical  decision 
for  that  Kingdom.  The  Kingdom  is  right  there,  "at  hand."  It 
stands  at  the  door  and  knocks  (Luke  12:36,  cf.  Rev.  3:20).  Who 
will  open  and  let  it  in?    Who  will  say  Yes  to  its  coming?  ...  It 


/  Will  Build  My  Church  221 

is  a  pearl  of  great  price;  you  sell  everything  you  have  to  get  it 
(Matt.  13:45-46).  You  leave  father  and  mother,  wife  and  family, 
as  if  you  hated  them,  at  its  beck  (Luke  14:26).  It  transcends  all 
earthly  concerns    (Matt.  6:33).18 

The  kingdom  of  God  is  also  a  kingdom  or  rule  to 
come  more  fully  in  the  future.  It  is  a  major  element  in 
the  doctrine  of  last  things,  in  eschatology.  We  shall  explore 
these  matters  further  in  the  last  chapter.  The  concern  of 
the  present  is  to  clarify  the  doctrine  of  the  kingdom  so  as 
to  see  its  relation  to  the  church.  For  some  persons  there  is 
a  complete  identification  between  the  church  and  the 
kingdom  of  God  on  earth;  or,  rather,  an  exaltation  of  the 
church  to  the  exclusion  of  the  kingdom.  This  is  the  view 
of  Augustine's  classic,  The  City  of  God.  For  eleven 
hundred  years  Catholic  thought  was  unchallenged  in  its 
assumption  that  the  church  represented  completely  the 
rule  of  God  on  earth.  Christendom  was  called  Corpus 
Christianum,  and  the  whole  society,  under  the  church's 
protection,  was  God's  rule  on  earth.  Protestant  thought 
takes  issue  with  this  view  and,  following  Jesus  and  the 
prophets,  sees  grave  danger  in  thus  exalting  the  organized 
institution  of  the  church. 

The  church  that  makes  such  an  identification  will  soon 
begin  to  invite  God  to  endorse  its  own  very  human  policies  and 
practices,  will  equate  the  people  of  God  with  those  nice  people 
who  share  its  particular  beliefs  and  participate  in  its  services,  and 
will  reckon  the  advance  of  the  Kingdom  in  terms  of  its  numerical 
growth.  But  it  will  not  be  the  New  Testament  church!  Such 
identification  is  a  great  snare,  as  prophets  since  Amos  have  told  us.ir 

There  is  an  opposite  tendency  to  exalt  the  kingdom  to 
the  minimizing  or  exclusion  of  the  church.  This  has 
been  a  mark  of  social-gospel  thought. 


16  John  Bright,   The  Kingdom  of  God    (New  York:    Abingdon  Press,   1935), 
page  219. 

17  Ibid.,  page  236. 


222  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

The  Church  is  primarily  a  fellowship  for  worship;  the 
Kingdom  is  a  fellowship  of  righteousness.  .  .  .  The  Kingdom  of 
God  breeds  prophets;  the  Church  breeds  priests  and  theologians. 
The  Church  runs  to  tradition  and  dogma;  the  Kingdom  rejoices 
in  forecasts  and  boundless  horizons.  .  .  .  The  Church  is  one  social 
institution  along  side  of  the  family,  the  industrial  organization  of 
society,  and  the  State.  The  Kingdom  of  God  is  in  all  these,  and 
realizes  itself  through  them  all.  .  .  .  The  Church  is  indispensable 
to  the  religious  education  of  humanity  and  to  the  conservation 
of  religion,  but  the  greatest  future  awaits  religion  in  the  public 
life  of  humanity.18 

As  some  forms  of  social-gospel  thought  thus  minimize 

the  church  by  pushing  the  kingdom  mainly  out  into  the 

broader  life  of  society,  so  likewise  some  forms  of  pre- 

millennial  thought  do  it  by  pushing  the  kingdom  entirely 

into  the  future. 

The  Christian  Church  is  .  .  .  distinct  from  the  Kingdom 
which  is  to  follow  it.  The  Church  is  a  companion  of  Christ  in 
his  humiliation,  manifesting  his  sufferings  and  filling  up  the 
afflictions  which  are  behind.  The  Kingdom  is  the  manifestation 
of  the  glory  of  Christ  which  shall  follow.19 

Such  efforts  to  make  complete  separation  between 
the  kingdom  age  and  the  gospel  age  or  church  age  disregard 
the  clear  implications  of  the  New  Testament  as  to  their 
integral  relationship,  although  they  rightly  discern  that 
the  kingdom  is  greater  than  the  church. 

How  then  is  the  church  related  to  the  kingdom?  She 
has  a  positive  relation  to  the  kingdom,  yet  she  is  not  the 
kingdom  without  qualification.  God  surely  rules  beyond 
the  confines  of  the  church.  Moreover,  there  is  obviously 
much  in  the  organized  church  which  comes  under  judg- 
ment of  the  kingdom.  But  despite  quarrels,  defects,  and 
weaknesses,  the  church  is  a  major  instrument  for  advancing 


18  Walter   Rauschenbusch,   A    Theology   for    the   Social    Gospel    (New   York: 
Macmillan,  1918),  pages  134,  137,  145.    Reprinted  by  permission  of  the  publishers. 

19  W.   E.   Blackstone,  Jesus  Is  Coming   (New  York:    Revell,   1898),  page  83. 
See  also  page   137. 


I  Will  Build  My  Church  223 

the  kingdom.  The  church  is  the  major  carrier  of  the 
kingdom's  judgment  upon  society,  for  hers  is  the  Spirit 
and  the  gifts,  hers  is  the  Bible  and  the  witness  of  the  Word, 
hers  is  the  commission  to  be  a  light  to  the  world  and  to 
be  the  salt  of  the  earth.  She  is  a  colony  of  heaven.  She 
is  an  earnest  or  down  payment  on  the  kingdom.  She  is 
happily  called  the  capital  of  the  kingdom.20  As  such  she  is 
the  central  focus  of  God's  redemptive  rule  on  earth.  This 
is  not  to  arrogate  to  herself  special  privileges  or  perfection 
but  to  acknowledge  the  tension  she  herself  experiences 
between  what  she  is  and  what  she  ought  to  be.  It  is  to 
discern  her  double  function  in  the  world:  to  nurture  her 
own  inner  life  as  the  bride  of  Christ  and  to  fulfill  her 
mission  in  the  world  as  the  body  of  Christ. 


20  Walter  Marshall  Horton's  phrase.    See  "The   Kingdom  of  God  and   the 
Church,"  in  Christendom,  Chicago,  spring  1941,  pages  32 Iff. 


CHAPTER  THIRTEEN 


The  Bride  of  Christ  and  the  Body  of  Christ 


We  move  now  from  the  origin  and  the  nature  of  the 
church  to  a  consideration  of  her  functions  and  her  tasks 
in  terms  of  the  two  classic  metaphors  of  the  bride  of  Christ 
and  the  body  of  Christ.  In  this  discussion  we  deal  with 
matters  of  intense  present-day  concern  and  of  wide  differ- 
ence of  opinion  even  among  dedicated  Christians.  Let  us 
explore  these  problems,  " eager  to  maintain  the  unity  of 
the  Spirit  in  the  bond  of  peace"  even  though  we  may  not 
yet  have  attained  ' 'unity  of  the  faith  and  of  the  knowledge 
of  the  Son  of  God"    (Ephesians  4:3,  13). 

The  Inner  Life  of  the  Church 

For  many  years  now  it  has  been  customary  to  interpret 
the  history  of  the  church  in  terms  of  environmental  factors. 
Outside  events  and  influences  are  used  as  explanations 
of  what  happened  in  and  to  the  church.  The  rise  of 
Christianity  is  ascribed  to  Roman  unification  and  religious 
toleration.  The  Crusades  were  due  to  the  Moslem  control 
of  the  Holy  Sepulchre.  Modern  missions  are  explained  as 
the  religious  phase  of  colonialism.  Revivals  are  regarded 
as  the  natural  result  of  frontier  restlessness  and  insecurity. 
The  rise  of  denominations  is  traced  to  social  and  economic 
sources.  The  explanatory  thread  of  church  life  is  the 
industrial  revolution.  So  the  arguments  run,  entirely  in 
terms  of  environmental  factors. 

These  analyses  are  impressive  indeed,  and  they  add 
much  to  the  understanding  of  church  history.    But  these 


The  Bride  of  Christ  and  the  Body  of  Christ      225 

factors  do  not  furnish  a  complete  explanation  of  events. 
In  every  case  something  else  has  been  present — the  forces 
and  influences  of  the  church's  inner  life.  The  Jerusalem 
Christians  went  everywhere  preaching  the  Word  not 
merely  because  they  were  scattered  abroad  (Acts  8:1).  The 
gospel  was  already  like  a  live  coal  in  their  hands  and  they 
were  eager  to  pass  it  on.  They  bubbled  with  the  good 
news  like  a  child  with  a  secret.  Their  radiance  was  not 
the  reflection  of  light  about  them — as  cat-eyes  or  road 
warnings  shine  back  to  our  automobiles  at  night.  Their 
radiance  was  from  an  incandescent  fire  within  them  which 
flamed  up  and  illuminated  their  whole  darkened  world. 
Here  is  a  paragraph  from  Lynn  D.  White  of  Mills 
College  which  gives  a  discerning  picture  of  the  interplay  of 
outer  and  inner  forces: 

The  river  of  the  Christian  tradition,  rising  in  the  hills  of 
antiquity,  flows  down  to  the  modern  world  through  broken  country. 
Sometimes  it  is  disturbed  by  rapids,  sometimes  serene,  often 
muddied,  often  clear,  receiving  tributaries,  gaining  much,  losing 
little,  seemingly  guided  by  the  terrain  through  which  it  passes, 
yet,  propelled  by  its  own  forces,  in  no  small  part  responsible  for 
the   forms  of   the   landscape.1 

It  is  important  to  recover  this  emphasis  upon  inner  life 
because  we  are  under  constant  strain  today  to  judge  the 
church  chiefly  from  some  standards  other  than  her  own, 
and  to  seek  strength  and  resources  outside  of  her  own 
characteristic  center  of  power. 

The  inner  life  of  the  church  is  also  minimized  by 
confusion  about  means  and  ends.  A  prominent  minister 
argued  a  generation  ago  that  the  church  should  have  no 
concern  for  herself  as  an  end.2   She  should,  rather,  forget 


1  George  Thomas   (ed.),  The  Vitality  of  the  Christian  Tradition   (New  York: 
Harper,  1945),  page  88. 

2  Ernest   F.    Tittle,   What  Must   the   Church  Do   to  Be  Saved?    (New  York, 
Cincinnati,  The  Abingdon  Press,   1921). 


226  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

herself  in  service  to  a  needy  world.  'Tor  whoever  would 
save  his  life  will  lose  it;  and  whoever  loses  his  life  for  my 
sake  and  the  gospel's  will  save  it"   (Mark  8:35). 

This  profound  truth  is  indeed  a  strong  judgment 
against  all  the  self-protection  and  pride  which  infect 
church  bodies,  whether  large  or  small.  The  church  is 
called  to  sacrificial  service  and  self-effacing  witness  in  a 
wayward  and  needy  world.  She  is  a  means,  an  instrument, 
an  agency  for  something  and  Someone  beyond  herself.  But 
that  does  not  rule  her  out  as  also  an  end.  Indeed,  the 
church  is  explicitly  viewed  as  the  object  of  Christ's  love  and 
concern  in  St.  Paul's  exhortation  that  husbands  love  their 
wives  "as  Christ  loved  the  church  and  gave  himself  up  for 
her"   (Ephesians  5:25). 

Lesslie  Newbigin  enters  his  protest  against  the  com- 
pletely functional  view  of  the  church  in  these  discerning 
words: 

The  Church  is  both  a  means  and  an  end,  because  it  is  a 
foretaste.  It  is  the  community  of  the  Holy  Spirit  who  is  the  earnest 
of  our  inheritance.  The  Church  can  only  witness  to  that  inheritance 
because  her  life  is  a  real  foretaste  of  it,  a  real  participation  in 
the  life  of  God  Himself.  Thus  worship  and  fellowship,  offering 
up  praise  and  adoration  to  God,  receiving  His  grace,  rejoicing  in 
Him,  sharing  one  with  another  the  fruits  of  the  Spirit,  and  building 
up  one  another  in  love  are  all  essentials  to  the  life  of  the  Church. 
.  .  .  It  is  precisely  because  she  is  not  merely  instrumental  that 
she  can  be  instrumental.3 

With  this  general  perspective  of  the  inner  life  of  the  church 
we  have  clearer  warrant  to  consider  the  familiar  but 
important  features  and  functions  of  it. 

Worship 

The  central  feature  and  function  of  the  church's 
inner  life  is  the  worship  of  God.  The  church  is  saved  from 


3  The  Household  of  God  (New  York:    Friendship  Press,  1954),  pages  168,  169. 


The  Bride  of  Christ  and  the  Body  of  Christ      227 

self-centeredness  because  God  is  the  center  of  her  inner 
life.  It  is  the  essence  of  worship  to  be  an  encounter  with 
God.  Praise,  adoration,  and  thanksgiving  are  all  out- 
flowing exercises  even  though  they  take  place  in  the  inner 
life  of  the  church.  The  hymns  and  the  liturgy  of  the 
church  are  rich  resources  for  fixing  the  mind  and  the 
affections  upon  him.  The  church  at  prayer  is  most 
characteristically  the  bride  of  Christ. 

The  sacraments  fit  into  this  exercise  of  worship.  They 
are  aspects  and  forms  of  worship.  The  word  sacrament  is 
sometimes  used  with  very  broad  meaning  such  as  when 
we  regard  our  world  as  "a  sacramental  universe. "  When 
we  sing  "In  the  rustling  grass  I  hear  Him  pass,  He  speaks 
to  me  everywhere,"  we  are  finding  nature  herself  a  means 
of  grace,  awakening  in  us  the  sense  of  God's  presence. 
This  mood  has  Biblical  warrant  in  such  a  statement  as 
Romans  1:20:  "Ever  since  the  creation  of  the  world  his 
invisible  nature,  namely,  his  eternal  power  and  deity,  has 
been  clearly  perceived  in  the  things  that  have  been  made." 

Frequently  sacrament  is  used  also  for  any  rite  or 
practice  which  nurtures  the  spiritual  life  of  the  Christian 
and  reference  is  made  to  the  sacrament  of  daily  toil,  the 
sacrament  of  silence,  the  sacrament  of  prayer,  the  sacra- 
ment of  home  life,  or  the  sacrament  of  friendship.  More 
strictly,  however,  the  term  is  reserved  for  rites  closely 
related  to  Christ's  redeeming  work  and  to  his  own 
authority.  The  traditional  view  is  given  in  the  Anglican 
catechism  as  "an  outward  and  visible  sign  of  an  inward 
and  spiritual  grace  given  to  us,  ordained  by  Christ  himself; 
as  a  means  whereby  we  receive  this  grace,  and  a  pledge  to 
assure  us  thereof."  Dr.  Harner  defines  a  sacrament  more 
simply  as  "a  sacred  and  symbolic  act,  traceable  to  Jesus, 
which  sets  forth  in  an  object  lesson  great  truths  of  our 


228  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

Christian  faith."4  The  sacraments  are  called  the  means  of 
grace,  not  because  they  work  automatically  regardless  of 
the  attitudes  of  the  participants,  but  because  they 
symbolize  and  make  vivid  the  great  facts  of  the  gospel. 
Some  groups  like  the  Quakers  and  the  Salvation  Army 
discard  all  the  sacraments,  although  they  have  their  own 
distinctive  forms  of  worship.  Some  groups  have  used  the 
word  ordinances  and  have  laid  great  emphasis  upon  the 
value  of  New  Testament  rites,  including  such  practices 
as  feet-washing  and  anointing  with  oil  for  healing.  The 
Roman  Catholics  claim  that  there  are  seven  sacraments: 
baptism,  confirmation,  the  eucharist,  penance,  extreme 
unction,  holy  orders,  and  matrimony.  Most  Protestants 
agree  on  two  as  essential:  baptism  and  the  eucharist  or  the 
Lord's  supper;  but  there  is  wide  difference  among  them 
as  to  their  practice. 

Baptism  is  a  rite  of  cleansing  at  the  beginning  of  the 
Christian  life  and  it  is  also  a  rite  of  initiation  into  Christ's 
body,  the  church.  The  word  baptize  means  to  dip  or  to 
immerse,  and  the  ceremony  is  for  the  remission  and  for- 
giveness of  sins.  It  is  to  be  given  to  those  who  repent  of 
their  sins  (Acts  2:38)  and  who  believe  the  gospel  (Mark 
16:16;  Acts  8:12;  18:8).  It  celebrates  the  applicant's  own 
experience  of  rebirth  and  personal  commitment  to  Chris- 
tian discipleship  (John  3:5;  Matthew  28:19).  This  is  why 
Baptist  groups  emphasize  believer's  baptism  and  regard 
infant  baptism  as  inadequate.  Churches  which  practice 
infant  baptism  recognize  the  same  point  in  their  ceremony 
of  confirmation. 

The  threefold  formula  in  baptism  is  based,  not  on 
the  hypothesis  that  three  immersions  will  be  more 
cleansing  than  one,  but  rather  upon  the  fullness  of  the 


*  Nevin    C.    Harner,    /    Believe    (Philadelphia:     Christian    Education    Press, 
1954),  page  66. 


The  Bride  of  Christ  and  the  Body  of  Christ      229 

Christian  conception  of  God  and  upon  the  fullness  of 
his  redemptive  work  in  Christ  and  in  the  Holy  Spirit. 
Christian  baptism  is  in  the  name  of  him  in  whom  dwelt 
the  fullness  of  the  Godhead.  Some  churches  set  forth  this 
fullness  by  the  threefold  formula  of  words  alone.  Others 
set  it  forth  by  three  complete  immersions  in  the  baptismal 
water.  Thus  in  the  baptismal  formula,  as  in  the  apostolic 
benediction,  the  full  wealth  of  the  Christian  faith  is 
brought  to  significant  focus. 

The  other  sacrament  which  most  Christians  practice 
in  their  worship  is  the  communion.  It  is  given  various 
names:  eucharist,  because  it  is  the  high  point  of  thanks- 
giving and  praise;  the  Lord's  supper,  because  it  was 
instituted  at  Christ's  last  supper  with  his  disciples,  and 
because  it  is  so  called  in  the  New  Testament  (1  Corin- 
thians 11:20):  love  feast,  because  of  the  New  Testament 
practice  and  explicit  reference  (Jude  12);  and  holy  com- 
munion, because  of  its  divine  reference  and  the  sacred 
intimacy  of  the  believer's  participation. 

In  this  rite  also  there  is  wide  variation  of  practice. 
Many  churches  celebrate  it  with  only  the  emblems  of  the 
bread  and  the  cup.  Some,  like  the  Church  of  the  Brethren, 
attempt  to  preserve  in  fullest  similitude  the  last  supper 
of  our  Lord  (John  13).5  They  engage  in  feet-washing  as 
a  preparatory  rite  of  love  humbling  itself  in  service.  This 
is  followed  by  a  fellowship  meal  in  celebration  of  the 
unity  of  Christian  believers  as  the  body  of  Christ  (1 
Corinthians  10:17).  The  climax  of  the  service  is  the  central 
act  of  worship  by  the  ritual  of  the  bread  and  the  cup.  The 
meaning  of  the  communion  is  quite  beyond  words  as  it 
lifts  up  for  celebration  God's  saving  act  in  Christ's 
sacrificial  death.    It  is  a  rite  with  a  backward  look:  "Do 


6  See   the   author's    pamphlet,    The  Brethren  Love   Feast    (Elgin:     Brethren 
Publishing  House,  1943). 


230  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

this  in  remembrance  of  me"  (1  Corinthians  11:24).  It  is 
a  rite  with  a  forward  look:  'Tor  as  often  as  you  eat  this 
bread  and  drink  the  cup,  you  proclaim  the  Lord's  death 
until  he  comes"  (1  Corinthians  11:26).  But  it  is  primarily 
a  rite  of  the  living  experience  of  Christ's  own  presence 
in  the  believer's  heart  and  in  the  midst  of  the  fellowship 
of  love. 

The  real  presence  is  not  to  be  explained  by  a  theory 
of  transubstantiation  or  to  be  brought  about  by  priestly 
manipulation.  But  the  world  over  and  the  ages  through, 
the  living  Lord  has  been  known  to  Christians  "in  the 
breaking  of  bread"  (Luke  24:35);  and  drinking  "the  cup 
of  the  new  covenant"  has  indeed  furthered  participation 
in  the  redemption  by  Christ's  blood  (1  Corinthians  11:25). 
This  is  the  central  act  of  Christian  worship  and  it  is  at 
the  heart  of  the  inner  life  of  the  church.  It  is  a  means 
of  grace. 

Bread  of  the  world,  in  mercy  broken, 
Wine  of  the  soul,  in  mercy  shed, 
By  whom  the  words  of  life  were  spoken, 
And  in  whose  death  our  sins  are  dead. 

Look  on  the  heart  by  sorrow  broken, 
Look  on  the  tears  by  sinners  shed; 
And  be  Thy  feast  to  us  the  token 
That  by  Thy  grace  our  souls  are  fed.6 

There  are  other  rites  and  practices  like  marriage, 
ordination  by  the  laying  on  of  hands,  and  anointing  with 
oil  for  healing  which  are  not  usually  included  in  the 
list  of  sacraments.  That  they  are  means  of  grace  with  a 
long  usage  is,  however,  beyond  question. 

A  word  is  in  place  on  anointing  with  oil  for  healing. 
This  is  a  practice  in  some  churches  and  it  is  based  on  the 
healing  ministry  of  Jesus  and  on  such  New  Testament 


6  Reginald  Heber's  hymn. 


The  Bride  of  Christ  and  the  Body  of  Christ      231 

references  as  Mark  6:13  and  especially  James  5:14-16.  In 
this  rite  the  anointing  with  oil  is  accompanied  by  the 
laying  on  of  hands  and  prayer,  all  three  of  which  are 
directed  toward  a  special  enduement  of  the  Holy  Spirit. 
The  ends  sought  are  the  forgiveness  of  sins,  the  strengthen- 
ing of  faith,  and  the  healing  of  the  body.  Here,  as  in 
other  experiences  of  the  Holy  Spirit,  it  is  assumed  that 
special  blessing  is  given  in  addition  to,  not  instead  of,  the 
usual  natural  processes.  Churches  which  have  followed 
this  practice  bear  testimony  to  its  significance  and  help 
in  many  cases  of  healing.  A  wider  practice  of  this  rite 
would  surely  be  a  benefit  to  many.  The  present-day 
knowledge  of  mental  illness  and  of  psychosomatic  healing 
makes  this  rite  one  of  fresh  relevance.7 

Fellowship 

Another  feature  of  the  inner  life  of  the  church  is 
fellowship.  We  have  already  seen  in  the  chapters  above 
that  the  essence  of  the  church  is  fellowship — the  fellowship 
among  Christian  people  produced  by  the  Holy  Spirit's 
presence  in  their  midst.  Fellowship  and  group  conscious- 
ness at  this  high  and  divine  level  are  not  merely  means  to 
an  end.  They  are  themselves  also  the  fulfillment  of  man's 
deep  need  of  love.  "At  each  stage  of  the  apostolic  task/' 
writes  Lesslie  Newbigin,  "the  Church's  task  is  to  reconcile 
men  to  God  in  Christ.  She  can  only  do  that  insofar  as  she 
is  herself  living  in  Christ,  a  reconciled  fellowship  in  Him, 
bound  together  in  the  love  of  the  Father.  This  life  in 
Christ  is  not  merely  the  instrument  of  the  apostolic  mis- 
sion, it  is  also  its  end  and  purpose."8 

In  this  fellowship  the  individual  Christian  finds  the 


7  See    pamphlet    by    Warren    D.    Bowman,    Anointing    for    Healing    (Elgin: 
Brethren  Publishing  House,   1942). 
8Op.  cit.,  page  169. 


232  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

fullest  development  of  his  spiritual  stature.  Without 
violating  his  freedom  or  his  privacy,  the  church  must  give 
pastoral  care  to  each  member  so  that  he  is  nurtured  in 
all  areas  of  his  life — body,  mind,  and  spirit.  Old  and 
young,  men  and  women,  rich  and  poor,  strong  and  weak, 
and  persons  of  all  types  and  temperaments  are  to  realize 
in  the  fellowship  of  the  church  their  fullest  spiritual 
stature. 

This  fellowship  is  something  which  cannot  be  given 
to  men  outside  of  the  church.  They  must  participate  in 
her  inner  life  to  share  it.  They  seek  it  elsewhere  in  vain. 
They  can  carry  the  flavor  and  sustaining  power  of  this 
fellowship  with  them  into  all  their  other  social  relation- 
ships, whether  in  home,  neighborhood,  school,  business, 
industry,  state,  or  nation.  But  none  of  these  can  replace 
the  fellowship  of  the  church. 

The  Ministry  of  the  Word 

According  to  the  Reformers'  definition  mentioned 
earlier,  the  church  exists  where  the  gospel  is  purely  taught 
and  the  sacraments  rightly  administered.  This  emphasis 
on  the  Word  and  the  gospel  is  a  characteristic  feature  of 
Protestantism.  It  puts  the  Bible  in  the  midst  of  the 
church.  It  involves  both  teaching  and  preaching.  We  shall 
see  later  that  both  teaching  and  preaching  are  to  be 
directed  to  the  outsider.  But  they  also  have  a  function  in 
the  inner  life  of  the  church.  Instruction  in  Christian  belief 
and  ethics  is  necessary  for  a  true  and  significant  Christian 
life.  The  church  lives  by  such  clear  understanding.  The 
church  is  concerned  also  in  general  education  so  that  the 
wide  range  of  culture,  arts,  and  skills  can  be  learned  in 
the  framework  of  Christian  philosophy  and  can  be 
governed  by  Christian  motivation.  Preaching,  more 
especially,  includes  moral  and  spiritual  exhortation  and 


The  Bride  of  Christ  and  the  Body  of  Christ      233 

the  proclamation  of  the  gospel  of  " Christ  and  him  cruci- 
fied." Indeed,  such  preaching  is  far  more  than  setting  forth 
ideas.  It  is  setting  forth  "truth  through  personality."9  It 
is  a  celebration  of  the  saving  events  of  the  gospel  and,  in 
this  regard,  it  is  closely  akin  to  the  sacraments.10 

Authority 

This  is  a  matter  of  much  confusion  in  thought  about 
the  church.  Some  persons  object  to  authority  in  the  name 
of  a  religion  of  the  spirit  and  set  up  a  false  antithesis 
between  them.  Not  every  enthusiasm  or  sentiment,  how- 
ever, is  of  the  Spirit  of  God.  The  earlier  comments  about 
"ardor  and  order"  apply  on  this  point.  The  religion  of 
the  Holy  Spirit  of  God  and  of  the  Spirit  of  Christ  is  one 
of  authority  other  than  a  person's  own  subjective  states. 
There  is  objection  to  authority,  likewise,  in  the  name 
of  individual  freedom  and  of  persuasion  as  against  group 
demands  which  might  become  coercive  and  despotic. 
George  Stewart  has  drawn  a  useful  distinction  between 
two  meanings  of  authority. 

Authority  may  mean  either  auctoritas,  a  commanding  influence, 
or  potestas,  dogmatic  prescriptive  power.  Authority  in  the  Church 
as  far  as  it  relates  to  the  truth  is  auctoritas.  It  should  mean  nothing 
despotic;  rather  it  should  mean  something  reasonable  and  helpful— 
namely,  respect  for  responsible  statements  and  requirements  laid 
down  by  accredited  representatives  of  the  Church  whose  experience 
and  knowledge  have  given  them  a  position  akin  to  that  of 
authorities  in  any  other  field.11 

This  authority  is  the  authority  of  truth  and,  for 
Christians,  this  centers  in  the  revealed  truth  of  the  gospel 


9  Phillips    Brooks'    phrase. 

10  See  Henry  Sloan  Coffin,  Communion  Through  Preaching  (New  York: 
Scribners,  1952),  passim,  in  which  he  speaks  of  preaching  as  "the  monstrance  of 
the  gospel." 

"  The  Church  (New  York:   Association  Press,  1938),  page  31. 


234  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

as  embodied  and  set  forth  in  Jesus  Christ  himself.  The 
church  as  a  whole  as  well  as  the  individual  himself  stands 
under  the  claim  and  influence  of  this  authority.  It  is 
the  authority  of  love  as  the  members  "have  the  same  care 
for  one  another' '  (1  Corinthians  12:25).  In  the  life  of 
fellowship,  individual  freedom  is  tempered  by  the  require- 
ments and  deference  of  love— by  "discerning  the  body"  (1 
Corinthians  1 1:29).  It  is  a  mark  of  maturity  to  understand 
and  to  exercise  the  authority  of  "truth  in  love"  (Ephesians 
4:15,  16).  The  ethical  and  moral  authority  of  the  church 
is  akin  to  her  authority  of  truth.  Both  the  church  as  a 
whole  and  the  individual  Christian  are  under  the  claims 
of  discipleship.  The  body  and  the  members  are  under 
the  authority  of  the  head,  which  is  Christ. 

As  in  any  ordered  fellowship,  the  exercise  of  this 
moral  authority  involves  discipline.  On  occasion  the 
lone  individual  makes  his  prophetic  witness  and  calls  the 
church  to  order.  On  other  occasions,  because  of  wider 
experience  and  responsibility,  the  church  calls  the  in- 
dividual member  to  order.  The  eighteenth  chapter  of 
Matthew  gives  the  steps  of  a  normative  procedure.  Bishop 
Charles  Gore  writes  discerningly  about  the  authority  of 
the  church  for  discipline: 

It  is  the  church's  duty  to  declare  the  message  of  God  and 
to.  .  .  refuse  to  reduce  it.  It  may  be  its  duty  to  judge  and  to 
excommunicate  this  or  that  individual  or  group.  But  this  is  to 
leave  them  to  God  — not  to  profess  to  pass  the  final  sentence  on 
them.  ...  It  has  got  authority  to  bear  a  certain  witness.  It  is 
set  to  administer  a  covenant  of  redemption  or  salvation.  It  must 
let  men  know  the  warrant  by  which  it  speaks  and  acts.  But  it 
can  pronounce  no  final  sentence.  It  has  no  authority  to  draw 
up  any  list  of  the  lost  or  any  infallible  catalogue  of  saints.  The 
day  of  judgment,  we  are  assured,  will  be  a  day  of  surprises,  and 
we  are  to  "judge  nothing  before  the  time."13 

12  The  Holy  Spirit  and  the  Church  (New  York:   Scribners,  1924),  pages  SO,  81. 


The  Bride  of  Christ  and  the  Body  of  Christ      235 

The  Ministry  and  Leaders  in  the  Church 

There  are  two  opposite  tendencies  in  interpreting 
historical  movements  and  the  life  of  social  groups.  One 
is  to  stress  the  force  of  circumstances  and  the  spirit  of  the 
times  and  to  minimize  the  significance  of  great  personali- 
ties and  the  power  of  their  leadership.  Thus  the  Eliza- 
bethan era  is  regarded  as  having  produced  Shakespeare; 
the  American  revolution  as  having  produced  George 
Washington;  or  the  Quaker  movement  as  having  produced 
William  Penn.  We  say  that  no  man  is  indispensable,  for 
another  will  rise  up  from  the  people  to  take  his  place.  In 
this  mood,  leaders  are  often  regarded  as  "brass  hats"  and 
"big  shots"  and  they  furnish  topics  for  endless  gossip  and 
frequent  ridicule. 

The  other  tendency  is  to  exalt  leadership  overmuch. 
History  is  regarded  as  the  lengthened  shadow  cast  by  great 
personalities.  Alexander  is  thus  regarded  as  having 
Hellenized  the  ancient  world;  Paul,  as  having  spread 
Christianity  around  the  Mediterranean;  Luther,  as  having 
produced  the  Reformation. 

A  balanced  view  reckons  with  both  of  these  tendencies 
and  in  the  Bible  they  are  both  set  in  the  framework  of 
God's  providence.  Events  and  circumstances  are  regarded 
as  "the  fullness  of  times"  (Galatians  4:4,  King  James 
Version),  "allotted  periods"  (Acts  17:26),  and  as  being 
within  God's  foreknowledge  and,  in  some  real  sense, 
amenable  to  his  eternal  purpose    (Romans  8:28ff.). 

At  the  same  time  the  leaders  of  movements  are 
regarded  as  being  raised  up  and  appointed  by  God  himself 
for  specific  assignments.  Accordingly,  within  the  church 
of  Christ  there  has  always  been  a  recognized  place  for 
leadership  and  for  some  stated  office  of  ministry.  When 
we  look  at  the  New  Testament  record  this  is  made  clear. 


236  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

It  is  difficult,  however,  to  find  any  uniform  or  authoritative 
pattern  of  such  leadership  or  offices. 

Some  Familiar  Terms 

There  were  apostles.  Apostle  was  a  Greek  word 
meaning  sent  out  and  is  equivalent  to  the  Latin  word 
from  which  we  get  missionary.  They  were  first  appointed 
by  Christ  from  among  his  disciples,  as  a  group  of  twelve 
"to  be  with  him,  and  to  be  sent  out  to  preach  and  have 
authority  to  cast  out  demons"  (Mark  3:14,  15).  After 
his  death  and  resurrection,  the  vacancy  left  by  the  defection 
and  death  of  Judas  was  filled  by  Matthias.  The  qualifi- 
cations stated  for  the  office  were  that  the  candidate  was 
with  the  disciples  of  the  Lord  Jesus  from  the  beginning 
and  that  he  was  a  witness  of  the  resurrection.  This  would 
imply  that  the  office  would  not  continue  beyond  the 
original  group  of  the  Twelve.  Paul,  Barnabas,  and  James 
are  also  referred  to  as  apostles  (Acts  14:4,  14;  1  Corinthians 
9:1)  or  as  exercising  apostolic  authority  (Acts  15:13; 
Galatians  2:9).  After  Paul's  time,  the  title  was  restricted 
to  the  Twelve  and  Paul. 

There  were  leaders  called  elders,  the  word  elder 
being  an  ancient  title  referring  to  the  age  and  maturity 
often  regarded  as  essential  to  leadership.  It  is  reflected  in 
the  Arabic  title  sheikh  and  the  Greek  term  presbyter^  each 
of  which  has  the  same  meaning  of  being  older.  In  the 
Jerusalem  church  there  were  apostles  and  elders  (Acts 
15:4,  6,  22,  23).  In  the  Gentile  churches  Paul  usually 
appointed  elders  to  take  charge  of  the  newly  planted 
congregations  (Acts  14:23;  20:28).  Elders  were  in  spiritual 
charge  of  the  church  according  to  the  instructions  for 
anointing  and  prayer  for  healing  (James  5:14).  They  were 
guardians  of  the  flock,  responsible  for  its  nurture  and  for 
its  protection    (Acts  20:17-35).    Dr.  John  Knox  regards 


The  Bride  of  Christ  and  the  Body  of  Christ      237 

the  body  of  elders  as  of  great  importance  in  the  primitive 
church.  It  appears  to  have  been  taken  over  from  the  Jewish 
sanhedrin  and  synagogue.  He  thinks  that  the  selection  of 
the  Seven  in  Acts  6:1-6  was  to  enlarge  the  council  of  elders 
to  give  representation  to  the  Jewish  Christians  of  Hel- 
lenistic origin.  "These  boards  of  elders,  like  the  Jewish 
sanhedrins,  had  general  oversight  of  the  affairs  of  the 
congregation  and  were  responsible  for  guiding  and 
ruling  it."13 

There  were  bishops  also.  The  word  bishop  comes 
from  the  Greek  word  for  overseer,  which  is  episkopos.  It 
is  similar  to  the  Latin  word  from  which  we  get  superin- 
tendent and  supervisor.  It  is  clearly  the  basis  for  episcopal 
and  episcopacy.  Bishops  are  mentioned  in  Philippians  1:1 
along  with  deacons.  The  same  word  (episkopoi)  is  used 
for  the  elders  of  Ephesus  as  guardians  of  the  flock  (Acts 
20:28).  The  requirements  of  the  office  of  bishop  stated  in 
1  Timothy  3:1-7  refer  primarily  to  his  moral  character. 
The  office  of  bishop  and  that  of  elder  seem  to  be  identical 
in  Titus  1:5-9.  There  is  little  indication  of  a  centralized 
bishop's  office  in  the  New  Testament  church.  The 
"monarchical  episcopate"  is  a  later  development.  Later 
ecclesiastical  tradition  makes  James  the  first  bishop  of 
Jerusalem  and  Peter  of  Rome. 

There  were  deacons.  The  word  deacon  comes  from 
the  Greek  word  diakonos,  which  means  servant  or  min- 
ister. This  office  is  mentioned  in  Philippians  1:1.  It  is 
foreshadowed,  although  not  mentioned  as  an  office,  in  the 
appointment  of  the  Seven  in  Acts,  chapter  6.  In  the 
Pastoral  Epistles  the  deacons  are  clearly  church  officials 
with  requirements  and  duties  similar  to  those  of  deacons 
in  many  evangelical  churches  today    (1  Timothy  3:8-13). 


13  H.    Richard    Niebuhr    and    Daniel    D.    Williams    (eds.),    The    Ministry    in 
Historical  Perspectives    (New  York:     Harper,    1956),   pages  20-22. 


238  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

There  were  prophets  in  the  church.  The  gift  of 
prophecy  is  mentioned  second  in  Paul's  list  (1  Corinthians 
12:28),  although  he  is  more  concerned  with  functions  than 
with  church  offices  as  such.  He  describes  the  meaning  of 
prophecy  as  ' 'upbuilding  and  encouragement  and  con- 
solation" (14:3),  which  is  quite  similar  to  inspired  preach- 
ing. Emotion  is,  however,  not  the  main  test  of  inspiration. 
Such  preaching  must  be  consistent  with  the  gospel  and  the 
general  faith  of  the  church  (1  Corinthians  12:3;  1  John 
4:1-3). 

There  were  teachers  in  the  church,  although  they  too 
are  more  specifically  mentioned  in  connection  with  a 
function  than  with  an  identifiable  office.  The  apostles  were 
authorized  to  preach  and  to  teach  (Mark  6:15;  Matthew 
28:20).  The  Jerusalem  church  was  devoted  "to  the 
apostles'  teaching  and  fellowship,  to  the  breaking  of  bread 
and  the  prayers"  (Acts  2:42).  There  were  teachers  in 
Antioch  (Acts  13:1)  and  the  office  of  teacher  was  included 
in  several  lists  (1  Corinthians  12:28f.;  Ephesians  4:11; 
Romans  12:7).  This  office  of  teacher  had  the  prestige  and 
the  precedent  of  Jesus  Christ  himself;  and  Christianity, 
like  Judaism,  has  always  been  a  teaching  religion.  Chris- 
tian converts  require  instruction  in  the  practical  duties 
of  the  Christian  life,  grounding  in  the  Scriptures,  and 
answers  to  their  questions  about  the  Christian  faith. 

The  word  pastor  is  used  in  Ephesians  4:11  but  it  does 
not  seem  to  refer  to  a  designated  common  office.  It  is  an 
excellent  term  meaning  shepherd  and  is  thus  one  of  high 
religious  significance  in  the  Old  Testament  (Psalm  23:1; 
Jeremiah  3:15;  etc.)  and  in  the  New  Testament.  Jesus 
Christ  is  the  good  shepherd  (John  10:14);  and  the  elders  in 
the  church  are  to  tend  the  flock  of  God  under  him  as  the 
chief  Shepherd  (1  Peter  5:1-4).  This  function  came  later 
to  be  one  of  the  characteristic  offices  of  the  Christian  min- 


The  Bride  of  Christ  and  the  Body  of  Christ      239 

istry.  Dr.  Kenneth  S.  Latourette  regards  it  as  the  most 
significant  office  for  it  is  given  to  "the  care  of  individuals, 
with  the  ideal  of  loving,  self-forgetful  effort  to  win  them 
to  what  the  Christian  conceives  as  the  highest  life  and  to 
help  them  grow  in  it."14 

These  are  the  main  forms  of  the  ministry  in  the  New 
Testament  church.  They  enabled  the  leaders  to  fulfill 
needed  forms  of  service  for  the  nurture  of  the  inner  life 
of  the  church.  The  picture  is  a  varied  and  changing  one. 
It  does  not  appear,  therefore,  that  they  were  set  in  a  form 
divinely  ordained  once  for  all.  There  are  diversities  of 
gifts  from  the  same  Spirit. 

As  we  look  at  the  church  today  we  see  a  tendency  to 
exalt  the  ministry  as  an  office.  There  is  a  "high  church" 
view  which  puts  the  authority  of  the  church  in  the  hands 
of  the  clergy.  They  receive  this  authority,  not  through  the 
church  but  through  an  unbroken  line  of  "apostolic  suc- 
cession" from  Jesus  Christ  to  Peter  and  the  other  apostles 
and  from  them  through  the  office  of  bishop  to  the  present 
ministry  properly  ordained  by  the  bishops.  Such  a  polity 
makes  for  a  unified  functioning  of  the  churches.  It  is  often 
effective  in  maintaining  continuity  of  teaching,  in 
opposing  error  and  political  encroachment,  and  in 
promoting  an  organized  Christian  program.  It  is  beset, 
however,  by  its  own  dangers  of  authoritarianism  and 
formalism,  and  the  temptations  of  institutional  power.  It 
runs  into  the  twin  perils  of  clericalism:  that  the  clergy 
assume  a  proprietary  right  in  their  calling  and  tend  to 
abuse  their  power;  and  that  the  lay  members  turn  over 
to  a  priestly  class  the  work  which  should  be  shared  by 
all.15 

There    is    an    opposite    tendency    to    minimize    the 


14  The  First  Five  Centuries  (New  York:    Scribners,  1937),  page  252. 

15  See  George  Stewart,  op.  cit.,  page  55. 


240  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

ministry  as  an  office.  This  "low  church"  view  emphasizes 
the  priesthood  of  all  believers.  In  its  extreme  form  it  is 
opposed  to  all  offices  and  expects  the  church  to  function 
entirely  by  the  direct  working  of  the  Spirit  through  the 
lay  membership.  This  polity  makes  for  spontaneity  and 
freedom  and  often  evokes  wide  participation  in  the 
church's  witness  and  work.  Such  churches  are  often 
marked  by  vitality,  adaptability,  and  growth  and  bear 
testimony  to  the  renewing  power  of  the  gospel.  They  are, 
however,  often  marked  also  by  confusion,  overlapping 
programs,  self-appointed  leaders  not  amenable  to  the 
disciplines  of  fellowship  and  order,  divisiveness,  and 
susceptibility  to  fads  and  cults. 

Some  Summarizing  Statements 

The  health  of  the  church  is  fostered  by  an  adequate 
ministry  and  by  acknowledged  officers  with  stated  quali- 
fications and  responsibility,  as  well  as  by  the  direct  move- 
ment of  the  Spirit  and  the  free  activity  of  the  total 
membership. 

God  uses  a  wide  variety  of  men  in  the  ministry  of  the 
church.  They  may  differ  in  type  and  temperament  as  well 
as  in  training,  and  still  be  used  effectively. 

Some  form  of  special  training  and  preparation  is 
required.  Whether  in  the  informal  school  of  Christ,  as  in 
the  case  of  Peter,  or  in  the  formal  school  of  Gamaliel,  as 
with  Paul,  there  is  a  call  to  study  and  show  oneself 
approved  unto  God  and  to  become  a  workman  who  has 
no  need  to  be  ashamed  (2  Timothy  2:15).  There  is 
accordingly  a  call  for  laborers  and  for  a  program  of 
recruitment  and  training  to  prepare  them  for  the  work 
of  the  harvest  which  is  already  white    (Luke  10:2). 

There  is  no  substitute  for  good  character  and  for  true 
devotion  to  the  work  of  the  ministry.   Both  sincerity  and 


The  Bride  of  Christ  and  the  Body  of  Christ      241 

circumspect  behavior  are  required  "so  that  no  fault  may 
be  found  with  our  ministry"    (2  Corinthians  6:3). 

A  minister  is  ordained  by  both  heaven  and  earth.  A 
true  minister  should  have  a  sense  of  God's  own  personal 
call  to  the  work  and  should  preach  from  his  own  personal 
conviction  of  truth.  There  is  wisdom  also  in  the  call  of 
the  church  and  added  power  in  her  ordination  and 
sanction. 

It  is  right  that  ministers  be  supported  financially. 
This  is  done  so  that  they  can  give  their  full  time  and  energy 
to  their  ministry,  and  not  because  they  have  gospel  wares 
to  sell.  They  should  not  work  for  money  but  for  the 
gospel's  sake,  lest  they  be  hirelings.  But  a  laborer  deserves 
his  wages  (Luke  10:7)  and  "the  Lord  commanded  that 
those  who  proclaim  the  gospel  should  get  their  living  by 
the  gospel"    (1  Corinthians  9:14). 

Formal  offices  enhance  rather  than  diminish  the 
importance  of  the  laity.  The  main  body  of  the  church 
is  made  up  of  laymembers.  A  church  composed  entirely 
of  formal  officers  would  be  self-defeating.  A  leader,  by 
logic,  functions  only  as  he  has  followers.  A  minister  serves 
only  as  he  has  someone  to  serve.  A  shepherd  belongs  to 
the  flock.  This  division  of  labor  involves  variety  of 
function  but  not  gradation  of  rank.  "You  have  one  teacher, 
and  you  are  all  brethren"  (Matthew  23:8).  Though  Paul 
was  "not  at  all  inferior  to  these  superlative  apostles"  (2 
Corinthians  11:5;  12:11)  he  still  remained  "our  beloved 
brother  Paul"  (2  Peter  3:15).  The  laity  of  the  church  as 
well  as  the  official  ministry  belongs  to  the  priesthood  of 
all  believers.  This  does  not  mean  that  each  one  is  self- 
sufficient  and  independent  in  his  own  religious  life,  nor 
is  it  a  device  to  satisfy  everyone's  ego,  but  it  means  rather 
that  the  work  of  the  ministry  is  so  wide  and  so  urgent  that 
it  will  take  a  whole  kingdom  of  priests  to  fulfill  it. 


242  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

The  Outreach  of  the  Church 

We  have  had  a  look  at  the  inner  life  of  the  church  and 
the  joyous  and  fruitful  dimensions  of  her  existence  as  the 
bride  of  Christ.  We  need  to  consider  also  her  tasks  and 
functions  as  the  body  of  Christ.  She  has  an  outreach  and 
mission  beyond  herself.  She  is  a  means  as  well  as  an  end. 
The  church  is  apostolic  in  the  sense  that  she  has  this 
mission  to  the  world.  While  she  is  not  of  the  world,  she  is 
in  the  world  in  fact  and  for  the  world  in  intention.  The 
church  and  the  world  are  distinguishable  and  there  is 
a  call  to  separatism  from  the  world.  But  this  is  not  to 
sever  all  relations  between  them.  The  relationship 
between  the  church  and  the  world  has  been  complex  and 
varied. 

Ernest  F.  Tittle  lists  the  following  historic  attitudes 
of  the  church:  (1)  Indifference  to  the  world,  for  Christian 
citizenship  is  in  heaven.  The  early  Christians  thought 
little  of  social  reform,  yet  they  did  repudiate  brutal  games 
and  war  and  they  embodied  love  in  their  own  fellowship. 
(2)  Retreat  from  the  world  in  the  monastic  seclusion  of 
the  religious  orders.  (3)  Dominance  of  church  control 
over  all  of  existence  as  asserted  by  the  medieval  papacy. 
(4)  Passive  acceptance  of  worldly  control  and  political 
conditions  as  a  punishment  for  sin,  as  implied  in  the 
Lutheran  view  of  the  two  separate  kingdoms  of  the 
state  and  of  the  church.  (5)  Search  for  voluntary  religious 
communities  embodying  agape  love,  as  in  the  Protestant 
left-wing  sects.  (6)  Attempt  to  embody  the  mind  of  Christ 
in  social  institutions,  as  in  the  modern  social  gospel 
emphasis.18 

A  more  recent  classification  in  terms  of  the  relation- 
ship of  Christ  to  culture  has  been  set  forth  by  H.  Richard 


16  Christians    in    an    Un-Christian    Society    (New    York:     Association    Press, 
1939),  pages  13ff. 


The  Bride  of  Christ  and  the  Body  of  Christ      243 

Niebuhr.17  He  points  out  five  main  patterns  of  relation- 
ship: Christ  in  opposition  to  culture;  Christ  in  accom- 
modation to  culture;  Christ  as  transcending  culture  but 
with  some  synthesis;  Christ  and  culture  in  paradox  and 
polarity;  and  Christ  as  the  transformer  of  culture. 

Each  of  these  two  lists  suggests  the  wide  range  and 
complications  of  the  possible  relationships  between  the 
church  and  the  world.  That  there  is  actual  relationship 
is  inherent  in  the  fact  that  Christians  live  perforce  in  the 
world  and  human  life  involves  participation  in  culture. 
It  is  not  possible  for  a  Christian  to  follow  Tertullian's 
advice  to  "resign  from  the  population/ '  Paul,  who  lifts 
up  clearly  the  case  for  separatism  (2  Corinthians  6:14 — 
7:1),  acknowledges  that  for  complete  separatism  "you 
would  need  to  go  out  of  the  world"  (1  Corinthians  5:10). 
While  the  church  has  walls,  there  are  windows  and  doors 
in  it  also  for  communication  to  pass  through.  Let  us  look 
at  the  major  lines  of  outreach. 

Witness  and  Concern 

Before  the  church  needs  to  do  anything  it  reaches 
out  to  the  world  by  what  it  is  in  its  own  inner  life.  "A 
city  set  on  a  hill  cannot  be  hid"  (Matthew  5:14).  If  the 
church  is  true  to  herself  in  her  own  inner  life,  she  is  a 
light  to  the  world.  She  is  a  rebuke  to  the  world's  evil 
and  an  object  for  the  world's  hope.  She  is  the  salt  of  the 
earth.  The  ancient  Epistle  to  Diognetus,  written  in  the 
second  century,  said  a  similar  thing:  "What  the  soul  is 
in  the  body  Christians  are  in  the  world.  .  .  .  The  soul  is 
enclosed  in  the  body,  and  itself  holds  the  body  together; 
so  too  Christians  are  held  fast  in  the  world  as  in  a  prison, 
yet  it  is  they  who  hold  the  world  together." 


17  Christ  and  Culture  (New  York:   Harper,  1951). 


244  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

This  witness  is  not  exercised  in  complete  withdrawal 
or  indifference,  for  the  church,  if  true  to  herself,  carries  a 
deep  concern  for  the  world.  She  worships  God,  who  has 
created  the  world  and  called  it  good  and  who  has  made 
of  one  every  nation  of  men  to  live  on  all  the  face  of  the 
earth.  Every  man  on  earth  is  the  brother  for  whom  Christ 
died.  In  loving  one's  neighbor  as  oneself,  every  Christian 
is  bound  to  include  the  remotest  man  on  earth  as  his 
neighbor.  The  church  is  thus  driven  by  the  terms  of  her 
worship  to  reach  out  in  concern  beyond  her  borders.  More- 
over, the  members  of  the  church  are  enmeshed  in  the 
world's  work  and  life.  As  they  come  to  worship  they  bring 
the  needs  and  anxieties  of  the  wTorld  with  them.  No 
retreat  is  exclusive  enough  to  still  the  voice  of  concern. 

Accordingly  the  church  reaches  out  from  the  heart 
of  her  inner  life  in  prayer  and  concern  for  the  world  about 
her.  Prayer  for  magistrates  and  all  who  are  in  high  position 
is  open  to  all,  and  Christians  omit  it  at  their  peril.  Inter- 
cession can  break  through  iron  curtains  and  prison  walls 
and  bring  God's  grace  to  bear  anywhere  and  at  any  time. 
According  to  Kierkegaard,  "the  Archimedean  point  out- 
side the  world  is  the  little  chamber  where  the  true 
suppliant  prays  in  all  sincerity — where  he  lifts  the  world 
off  its  hinges."  Prayer  is  often  considered  as  the  last  resort 
of  the  church.  It  should  also  be  the  first  and  constant 
resort.  Let  not  all  the  fevered  claim  of  activism  and  the 
seeming  impotence  of  the  church  stifle  this  most  char- 
acteristic form  of  outreach.  Even  in  her  inner  life  the 
church  has  the  world  on  her  heart. 

Evangelism 

The  task  of  evangelism  starts  with  Jesus'  own  ministry 
and  the  work  of  his  disciples  as  they  learned  to  be  fishers 


The  Bride  of  Christ  and  the  Body  of  Christ      245 

of  men.  It  was  laid  on  them  as  a  permanent  assignment  in 
the  Great  Commission.  It  was  furthered  on  Pentecost  with 
new  power  and  by  bold  preaching.  Imprisonment  and 
forced  flight  from  Jerusalem  served  only  to  multiply  its 
effectiveness.  The  daring  strategy  and  lifetime  devotion 
of  Paul  and  other  preachers  as  well  as  the  irrepressible  testi- 
mony of  many  Christians  in  the  common  walks  of  life 
pursued  this  mission  to  the  borders  of  the  empire  and 
beyond. 

It  is  still  an  urgent  task  because  it  brings  the  power 
of  the  gospel  to  bear  on  the  central  and  deep  needs  of  men 
for  the  forgiveness  of  their  sins.  It  is  urgent  to  keep  the 
church  going  and  growing.  All  other  functions  of  the 
church  depend  upon  a  continuous  augmenting  of  church 
membership.  It  is  urgent  because  the  Great  Commission 
still  rests  upon  us  unfulfilled.  Though  half  the  world's 
population  may  have  come  under  the  influence  of  the 
gospel,  the  other  half  is  still  living  "B.C."  Moreover, 
each  new  generation  requires  the  work  of  evangelism  to 
be  repeated  for  it  by  both  preaching  and  nurture.  The 
goal  of  evangelism  is  the  renewal  of  life  by  which  men 
enter  the  kingdom  of  God  (John  3:3,  5).  There  are 
specialists  at  this  work  whom  God  raises  up  periodically. 
But  the  priesthood  of  all  believers  involves  every  Christian 
in  doing  "the  work  of  an  evangelist"    (2  Timothy  4:5). 

While  this  work  of  evangelism  is  an  outreach  of  the 
church  it  is  also  an  ingathering  for  the  church.  This  is 
not,  however,  for  the  selfish  purpose  of  swelling  church 
membership.  It  is  for  the  purpose  of  bringing  the  members 
into  the  inner  life  of  the  church  to  share  the  deep  fellow- 
ship which  is  its  essence.  The  richest  blessings  the  church 
has  for  the  world  cannot  be  given  except  as  men  enter  the 
life  of  the  church  and  thus  become  part  of  the  body  of 
Christ.    For  this  reason  the  church  seeks  to  extend  and 


246  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

increase  herself  by  establishing  new  fellowships  around  the 
world. 

Ministry  of  Mercy 

Following  the  work  of  Christ  himself  it  is  the  task  of 
the  church  to  engage  in  works  of  mercy.  His  work  as  healer 
and  helper  as  well  as  his  matchless  parables  of  the  good 
Samaritan  (Luke  10:30-37),  the  last  judgment  (Matthew 
25:31-46),  and  other  teachings  have  burned  this  responsi- 
bility deeply  into  the  Christian  conscience.  The  outflow 
of  agape  love  is  at  the  center  of  the  church's  outreach.  It 
is  occasioned  by  suffering  and  need  wherever  found.  The 
main  motive  for  it  is  compassion.  Other  implications  flow 
from  such  service  but  it  requires  no  other  warrant  than 
need  and  compassionate  help. 

While  men  have  clear  and  immediate  obligations  to 
those  in  their  own  homes  and  neighborhoods,  the  outreach 
of  love  includes  the  world  in  its  concept  of  neighborhood. 
While  the  church  has  clear  and  immediate  obligations  to 
those  of  the  household  of  faith  (Galatians  6:10),  she  is 
bound  also  to  do  good  to  all  men.  Through  the  centuries, 
accordingly,  the  church  has  engaged  in  almsgiving  and 
the  ministry  of  healing.  Modern  scientific  medicine  has 
increased  greatly  her  resources  for  this  work  and  the 
missionary  doctor  has  become  a  characteristic  exemplar 
of  Christian  love  as  he  carries  on  his  heroic  work.  In 
recent  decades,  the  dislocations  and  destruction  caused 
by  war,  as  well  as  the  glaring  differences  between  areas  of 
want  and  areas  of  plenty,  have  increased  the  occasions  and 
the  urgency  of  exercising  this  ministry  of  mercy.  If  many 
people  outside  of  the  church  appear  to  do  similar  work 
on  a  broad  humanitarian  basis,  this  is  partly  due  to  diffused 
Christian  motivation.    In  any  case  it  calls  the  church  all 


The  Bride  of  Christ  and  the  Body  of  Christ      247 

the  more  to  follow  her  Lord,  who  "went  about  doing 
good"  (Acts  10:38)  and  whose  voice  can  be  heard  saying, 
"What  more  are  you  doing  than  others?"  (Matthew  5:47). 

Education 

The  church  has  always  been  interested  in  education. 
The  first  purpose  has  been  to  instruct  her  own  membership 
in  the  truths  of  the  Christian  faith  and  in  the  principles 
of  Christian  living.  This  is  done  for  each  oncoming 
generation  and  it  is  an  adjunct  of  the  evangelistic  outreach 
of  the  church.  Education  is  also  for  exploration  into 
wider  knowledge  and  for  the  increase  of  the  abundant  life 
of  art  and  of  technical  skills.  Such  increase  of  knowledge 
is  enriched  and  unified  by  the  principles  of  the  Christian 
revelation.  This  educational  ministry  flows  out  of  the 
church  as  its  fountain  and  seeks  the  health  and  enrichment 
of  the  common  life.  It  should  also  strengthen  and  extend 
the  church  herself.  Church-related  colleges  should  main- 
tain commendable  standards  of  scholarship;  they  should 
be  administered  with  integrity;  and  they  should  also  be 
distinctively  Christian  in  their  teachings  and  in  their 
general  atmosphere.  They  thus  have  an  important 
contribution  to  make  to  society. 

Prophetic  and  Ethical  Function 

The  church  has  a  prophetic  and  ethical  function  to 
fulfill  in  her  outreach.  This  is  the  task  of  making  clear 
and  convincing  the  principles  of  the  kingdom  of  God 
according  to  the  revelation  of  Christ.  In  the  fields  of 
politics  and  economics  and  in  such  social  problems  as 
family  tension,  race  prejudice,  and  war,  the  church  has 
the  task  of  clarifying  the  principles  by  which  men  are  to 
live.  This  includes  the  pronouncing  of  judgment  on  social 


248  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

evils  but  even   more   effort   is   required   to   clarify   and 
persuade  in  positive  ways. 

This  ethical  and  social  responsibility  applies  first  of 
all  to  the  church's  own  institutional  life.  Her  main  thrust 
beyond  her  borders  is  in  terms  of  the  behavior  of  her 
members  in  the  vocations  of  the  common  life.  The  world 
needs  a  constant  stream  of  convinced  Christians  to  engage 
in  her  work,  with  the  ethical  discernment  and  conviction 
needed  to  apply  Christian  principles  in  the  broad  life  of 
society.  In  many  ways  the  Christian  ethical  claims  apply 
primarily  to  Christians.  They  understand  them  better. 
They  are  committed  to  live  by  them.  And  they  have  the 
added  grace  of  the  gospel  to  strengthen  them.  But  it  is 
also  true  that  Christian  ethical  principles  have  validity 
for  men  as  men  and  both  their  claim  and  their  wisdom 
should  be  offered  to  all.  Adultery  and  murder  are  wrong 
whether  committed  by  Christians  or  non-Christians.  It  is 
likewise  true  that  lust  and  hatred  are  the  root  forms  of 
these  evils  the  world  over. 

It  is  not  satisfactory  to  say  that  the  church  may 
practice  agape  love  but  that  the  world  must  be  controlled 
primarily  by  impersonal  justice.  The  responsibility  of 
the  state,  for  example,  differs  from  that  of  the  church 
and  the  state  may  have  to  administer  a  community 
including  both  Christians  and  non-Christians.  But  even 
there  a  divorce  of  justice  from  love  would  result  in  a 
mechanical  equalitarianism,  in  distributive  areas  of 
justice,  and  in  vindictiveness  and  the  desire  to  get  even,  in 
retributive  areas  of  justice.18  The  current  stress  upon  a 
"responsible  society"  does  indeed  focus  the  prophets' 
attention  on  the  grim  realism  of  social  problems.    But 


18  See  Georgia  Harkness,  Christian  Ethics  (New  York:  Abingdon  Press,  1957), 
pages  186-191.  for  an  excellent  critique  of  the  duality  of  love  and  justice  as 
exaggerated  by  Brunner  and  Niebuhr. 


The  Bride  of  Christ  and  the  Body  of  Christ      249 

a  "responsible  society' '  which  undertakes  warfare  to  escape 
tyranny  or  to  establish  justice  is  responsible  also  for  the 
chaos  and  tragedy  such  a  war  entails  even  if  "successful." 
It  is  responsible  also  for  the  sad  probability  of  being 
"unsuccessful."  It  is  responsible  for  the  violation  of  the 
principles  of  both  love  and  justice.  A  responsible  society, 
as  a  responsible  individual,  is  responsible  not  primarily  for 
realism  or  for  relevance  but  it  is  responsible  primarily  for 
what  is  right.  It  is  responsible  primarily  to  God,  who  wills 
both  love  and  justice.  The  church  is  especially  responsible 
for  its  witness  of  righteousness.  It  is  certainly  not  guar- 
anteed success  in  this  witness.  In  the  Gospels,  as  through- 
out history,  it  has  clearer  promise  of  persecution  and 
suffering  than  of  success. 

The  prophetic  and  ethical  function  of  the  church 
is  complicated  and  varied  in  its  application.  It  is  simple 
and  imperious  in  its  urgency:  to  make  clear  and  convincing 
the  principles  of  the  kingdom  of  God  according  to  the 
revelation  of  Christ. 

The  Ministry  of  Reconciliation 

This  view  of  the  church's  task,  phrased  first  in  Paul's 
classic  writing  (2  Corinthians  5:16-21),  is  a  good  way  to 
sum  up  her  outreach.  It  involves  the  gospel  of  forgiveness 
which  is  the  heart  of  evangelism.  It  involves  the  twin 
efforts  of  prophetic  pronouncement  and  compassionate 
welfare.  It  sets  the  Christian  and  the  church  as  ambas- 
sadors between  God  and  his  estranged  and  wayward 
children,  seeking  by  all  effective  methods  available  to 
bring  about  God's  intended  reconciliation.  It  sends 
Christians  out  from  the  inner  life  of  the  church  into  the 
highways  and  hedges,  out  into  the  areas  of  sore  tension 
and  need,  to  apply  there  the  healing  of  God's  righteous 


250  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

and  redeeming  love.  The  church  sends  out  these  ambas- 
sadors, whether  as  appointed  specialists  on  official  missions 
or  as  lay  witnesses  in  the  vocations  of  the  common  life, 
to  beseech  men  on  behalf  of  Christ,  "Be  ye  reconciled 
to  God." 

The  church  is  apostolic,  but  not  because  of  an  un- 
broken line  of  formal  leaders.  She  is  apostolic  because,  like 
the  early  apostles,  she  is  set  in  the  world  with  an  apostolic 
mission.  She  is  the  light  of  the  world  and  the  salt  of  the 
earth.  She  is  a  city  set  upon  a  hill  which  cannot  be  hid.  She 
is  the  Body  of  Christ,  set  to  fulfill  his  mission  of  reconcilia- 
tion and  peace. 


Epilogue 


We  have  now  surveyed  the  general  foundations  of 
Christian  belief  in  the  framework  of  the  apostolic  bene- 
diction. We  have  seen  the  heart  and  focus  of  it  in  the 
grace  of  Christ  our  Lord.  In  his  earthly  ministry  our 
Lord  revealed  the  character,  and  set  forward  the  purposes, 
of  God  our  loving  Father.  In  the  light  of  this  full  revela- 
tion of  the  Father  we  interpret  God's  eternal  nature  and 
his  overarching  providence.  The  enduring  result  of 
Christ's  mission  in  the  world  is  a  new  community — the 
fellowship  of  the  Holy  Spirit.  This  fellowship  is  the 
ongoing  essence  of  the  church.  It  is  bound,  as  a  forgiven 
and  worshiping  community,  to  the  redeeming  Lord,  as  the 
bride  of  Christ.  It  is  also  set,  as  the  body  of  Christ,  in  the 
world  as  the  central  agency  for  carrying  on  his  reconciling 
work.  On  these  three  pillars  of  basic  Christian  belief  we 
can  now  set  one  remaining  feature  of  our  faith. 


CHAPTER  FOURTEEN 


Christian  Hope 


The  theme  of  this  chapter  is  given  varied  names  in 
outlines  of  doctrine:  future  things;  things  to  come;  last 
things;1  heaven  and  hell;  everlasting  life;  the  coming 
kingdom;  the  final  consummation;  eternity.  A  simple  and 
characteristic  word  used  widely  in  the  Bible  and  in 
current  thought  is  hope.  The  present  writer  had  occasion 
to  observe  how  characteristically  Christian  this  term  is, 
when  translating  New  Testament  writings  into  the  Bura 
language  of  northeastern  Nigeria.  No  current  word  could 
be  found  to  express  it.  It  was  discovered  that,  in  translating 
other  African  vernaculars,  the  same  problem  was  faced; 
no  equivalent  for  hope  was  found.  Some  versions  alter- 
nated between  the  word  for  desire  and  the  word  for 
expectation.  It  was  hard  to  determine  in  each  case  which 
way  to  weight  the  translation.2 

What  Christian  hope  means  is  really  a  combination 
of  the  two — desire  and  expectation.  Mere  desire  is  not 
enough  without  assured  expectation.  Expectation  is  not 
real  hope  unless  what  we  expect  is  desirable.  Sometimes  an 
African  idiom  was  used  such  as  "to  place  within  one's 
heart"  or  "to  set  one's  eyes  upon."  We  have  thus  a  word 
full  of  rich  religious  meaning.  "Though  composed  of  a 
single  syllable,  hope  has  a  triple  reference.  It  springs  from 


1  Eschatology  is  a  technical  word  meaning  the  doctrine  of  last  things. 

2  A  similar  experience  was  met  elsewhere  with  the  Maya  language,  where 
"to  hope  in  God"  is  rendered  "to  hang  on  to  God."  Quoted  in  Paul  S.  Minear, 
Christian  Hope  and  the  Second  Coming  (Philadelphia:  Westminster  Press, 
copyright  1954  by  W.  L.  Jenkins),  page  33. 


254  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

a  source,  it  seeks  an  object,  and  it  has  the  wings  of  wishing. 
.  .  .  All  three  of  these  meanings  meet  in  the  person  who 
hopes.  Whether  his  hope  is  vindicated  depends  on  the 
simultaneous  validity  of  ground,  goal,  and  good."3  For 
the  Christian  the  future  outlook,  though  grim  and  realistic, 
is  one  of  hope. 

As  with  the  doctrine  of  the  church,  the  doctrine 
of  Christian  hope  is  one  of  wide-ranging  significance, 
strong  personal  and  public  interest,  and  sharp  difference 
of  interpretation.  We  shall  attempt  to  find  a  path  through 
the  materials  where  the  light  is  clearest  and  where  the 
importance  of  the  truth  is  most  sure. 

Some  General  Observations 

It  is  well  to  set  our  hope  in  the  framework  of  our 
total  Christian  faith.  Some  general  statements  will  serve 
to  clarify  the  perspective  of  our  future  expectation. 

Our  Hope  Is  in  God 

Christian  hope  rests  primarily  on  the  purposes  and 
power  of  God.  Faith  in  the  God  of  the  Bible — in  him  who 
is  the  Father  of  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ — is  the  foundation 
of  Christian  hope.  Any  desirable  expectation  for  the 
future  is  grounded  in  the  total  Christian  faith;  it  is  not 
something  alien  to  be  tacked  on  as  an  addendum  or,  as 
Dr.  Minear  points  out,  an  afterthought. 

He  who  is  the  ground  of  hope  is  the  Creator  of  the  ends  of 
the  earth  and  the  Redeemer  of  all  his  creation.  .  .  .  Within  the 
scope  of  his  purposes  lie  all  historical  happenings,  however 
microscopic  or  catastrophic.  ...  No  hope  that  is  contingent  on 
specific  social  or  personal  fortune  can  claim  this  comprehensiveness; 
conversely,  this  hope  can  never  become  contingent  on  a  particular 
sequence  of  social  changes.* 

8  Minear,  op.  cit.,  page  18.    Used  by  permission. 
*  Op.  cit.,  page  24. 


Christian  Hope  255 

The  Biblical  faith  that  God  takes  time  seriously  and 
works  at  his  purposes  within  history  is  so  ingrained  in  all 
Western  thought  that  it  is  easy  to  overlook  its  peculiar 
significance  in  contrast  with  Oriental  and  classical  modes 
of  thought. 

Dr.  David  S.  Cairns  speaks  of  this  as  the  linear  view 
of  world  events.  "The  symbol  of  all  pagan  views  of 
nature  and  of  history  ...  is  the  circle;  the  symbol  of 
all  truly  Christian  ways  is  the  line."5  In  this  linear  view, 
he  argues,  we  have  the  secret  of  the  quenchless  vitality 
of  the  Bible.  According  to  Oriental  and  classic  world 
views,  the  events  of  life  go  around  in  cycles.  This  rotation 
may  be  long  and  complicated,  but  it  is  all  there  is  to 
history.  It  is  a  sort  of  cosmic  carousel  which  takes  us  on  a 
long  whirl  and  then  back  to  the  starting  point.  "Here  is 
where  I  came  in"  is  all  we  can  say  in  our  highest  moments. 
There  is  no  future  in  that.  In  Western  thought,  however, 
this  linear  view  is  taken  over  from  the  Bible  and  has 
become  the  ground  of  much  thought  of  the  past  centuries. 

Dr.  John  Baillie  argues  at  length  that  the  theory  of 
progress  is  the  form  this  faith  in  God  has  often  taken.  To 
be  sure,  it  was  secularized  and  was  severed  from  God, 
who  was  its  original  source.  "This  modern  humanism 
encourages  us  to  regard  history  as  a  record  of  human 
initiative."8  In  the  secularized  form  progress  came  to  be 
regarded  as  automatic  and  inevitable  and  history  came  to 
be  regarded  as  self-fulfilling.  The  idea  of  evolution  and 
Karl  Marx's  view  of  the  class  struggle  are  other  forms  of 
this  same  general  idea  of  forward  movement  in  nature 
and  in  the  economic  process. 

Such  wide  adaptation  and  distortion  indicates  how 


6  The  Riddle  of  the  World  (New  York:    Round  Table  Press,  1938),  page  248. 
6  John  Baillie,  Invitation  to  Pilgrimage   (New  York:    Scribners,   1942),  page 
82.    See  also:    The  Belief  in  Progress   (New  York:    Scribners,   1951),  passim. 


256  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

thoroughly  imbued  our  thought  is  with  linear  assumptions 
which  stem  from  belief  in  a  God  of  purposive  action  in 
nature  and  history.  Nihilism,  or  the  loss  of  hope,  in 
Europe  and  America  is  not  simply  the  result  of  war  and 
the  destruction  of  order.  It  is  the  result  also  of  a  loss  of 
faith  in  God — of  the  subsidence  of  faith  in  his  control 
of  nature  and  of  history.  By  the  same  token,  a  recovery 
or  a  reaffirmation  of  faith  in  his  providential  purposes 
and  power  is  the  basic  ground  of  Christian  hope.  At  the 
level  of  personal  devotion,  as  well  as  at  the  level  of 
philosophical  certainty,  this  is  true.  "We  have  our  hope 
set  on  the  living  God"  (1  Timothy  4:10).  "Thou  art  my 
God.    My  times  are  in  thy  hand"    (Psalm  31:14,  15). 

Christ  Came  and  Will  Come 

The  New  Testament  hope  has  two  reference  points: 
what  has  happened  and  what  will  happen.  In  terms  of 
the  kingdom  of  God,  John  and  Jesus  came  preaching  the 
fulfillment  of  the  times  for  "the  kingdom  of  God  is  at 
hand."  As  we  noted  in  a  former  chapter,  the  whole 
ministry  of  Jesus  on  earth  was  regarded  as  the  coming  of 
the  kingdom.  It  was  at  hand  then  and  in  the  very  midst  of 
the  people  he  met.  It  had  come  upon  them.  Yet  Christ 
taught  his  disciples  to  pray,  "Thy  kingdom  come."  In 
terms  of  the  teachings  of  Jesus,  C.  H.  Dodd  is  doubtless 
right  in  his  concept  of  "realized  eschatology."  He  argues 
that  the  parables  announce  a  present  fruition.7  The 
kingdom  of  God  is  a  power  already  released  in  the  world. 
On  the  other  hand,  its  beginnings  are  small  and  a  period 
of  growth  is  to  follow. 

Dodd  goes  too  far  in  denying  a  future  fruition.  The 
parables  of  the  mustard  seed    (Matthew  13:31,  32)  and 

7  The  Parables  of  the  Kingdom  (London:    Nisbet  and  Company,  1935),  pages 
175-194. 


Christian  Hope  257 

the  sowing  of  a  field  (Mark  4:26-29)  have  their  harvest  in 
the  future.  The  parables  of  the  tares  and  of  the  dragnet 
(Matthew  13:24-30,  36-43,  47-50)  imply  that  the  full  con- 
summation of  the  kingdom  is  to  come  in  the  future.  In 
terms  of  the  death  of  Christ  this  double  reference  appears 
in  the  eucharist.  In  it  we  celebrate  rites  in  remembrance  of 
him.  We  also  show  forth  his  death  until  he  comes.  Christ 
died  on  the  cross  once  for  all  and  finished  his  work.  Yet 
in  our  sins  we  crucify  the  Son  of  God  again  and  on  our 
own  account  (Hebrews  6:6). 

In  terms  of  the  experience  of  the  Holy  Spirit, 
Pentecost  inaugurated  an  era  wherein  men  were  filled  with 
his  presence  and  power.  Yet  the  Holy  Spirit  is  regarded 
as  an  earnest  and  down  payment  of  our  salvation 
(Ephesians  1:14).  Our  redemption  as  sons  of  God  also 
has  this  double  reference:  "Beloved,  we  are  God's  children 
now;  it  does  not  yet  appear  what  we  shall  be,  but  we  know 
that  when  he  appears  we  shall  be  like  him,  for  we  shall  see 
him  as  he  is"  (1  John  3:2).  This  whole  outlook  of  the 
New  Testament  has  given  rise  to  the  phrase,  "between 
the  times.' '  We  live  between  the  first  advent  of  Christ 
which  has  occurred  and  the  second  advent  of  Christ  which 
is  still  in  the  future.  In  the  first  advent  he  overcame  evil 
by  his  life,  death,  and  resurrection.  Yet  we  are  engaged 
in  warfare  against  evil  which  presumably  will  last  until 
the  end.  Christian  hope  has  two  reference  points:  what 
has  happened,  and  what  will  happen.  "For  in  this  hope 
we  were  saved.  .  .  .  But  if  we  hope  for  what  we  do  not 
see,  we  wait  for  it  with  patience"  (Romans  8:24,  25;  italics 
are  mine). 

The  Millennial  Hope 

The  pictures  of  Christian  hope  are  varied  and  need 
careful    interpretation.     All    through    the    Bible   and    in 


258  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

Christian  thought  our  expectation  for  the  future  has 
been  given  in  picturesque  and  symbolic  language.  To 
say  that  it  is  symbolic  or  in  poetry,  rather  than  literal  or  in 
prose,  does  not  mean  that  it  is  unreal  or  false.  Many  truths 
can  be  better  conveyed  by  poetic  imagery  than  by  matter- 
of-fact  statement.  Children,  people  of  simpler  culture,  and 
the  inspired  writers  of  Scripture  have  the  gift  of  using  such 
language  and  we  should  pray  for  the  inspiration  and  dis- 
cernment to  do  likewise  and  to  get  real  truth  out  of 
symbolic  pictures.  Something  real  is  said  by  the  statement, 
"Righteousness  and  peace  will  kiss  each  other"  (Psalm 
85:10);  or,  "The  trees  of  the  field  shall  clap  their  hands" 
(Isaiah  55:12). 

An  early  Christian  writing  pictures  the  future  in  these 
words: 

The  days  will  come,  in  which  vines  shall  grow,  each  having 
ten  thousand  branches,  and  in  each  branch  ten  thousand  twigs, 
and  in  each  twig  ten  thousand  shoots,  and  in  each  of  the  shoots 
ten  thousand  clusters,  and  in  every  one  of  the  clusters  ten  thousand 
grapes,  and  every  grape  when  pressed  will  give  two  hundred  gallons 
of  wine.8 

This  is  a  picture  of  plenty,  meaning  much  more  than 
twenty  sextillion  gallons  of  wine.  In  view  of  the  Christian 
ethic  of  temperance,  this  picture  means  plenty  of  good 
things  quite  other  than  wine. 

The  hope  for  the  future  in  history  is  sometimes  set 
in  terms  of  postmillennialism,  which  is  briefly  described 
by  Dr.  W.  W.  Sweet  as 

the  belief  that  the  thousand  year  reign  of  Christ  on  earth  will 
come  after  the  gospel  has  been  spread  and  become  effective 
throughout  the  world.  The  condition  thus  reached  will  last  for 
a  thousand  years.  In  this  period  the  Jews  will  be  converted  to 
Christianity.  After  a  brief  but  terrible  conflict  between  Christian 
and   evil   forces    Christ  will   appear   and   the   general   resurrection 

8  This  is  Irenaeus'  quotation  from  Papias. 


Christian  Hope  259 

and  the  judgment  will  follow.  The  earth  will  then  be  destroyed 
by  fire  and  a  new  heaven  and  a  new  earth  will  be  revealed.9 

Sometimes  this  hope  is  set  in  terms  called  nonmil- 
lennialism  or  amillennialism.  This  is  because  the 
thousand-year  period  mentioned  in  Revelation  20  is  not 
regarded  as  referring  to  a  specific  period  of  bliss  on  earth 
in  the  future.  Dr.  George  L.  Murray,  an  exponent  of  this 
view,  believes  that 

the  figure  of  one  thousand  years  represents  a  definite  period  of 
time,  measured  by  and  known  to  God  Himself.  It  is  the  time 
extending  from  our  Lord's  first  advent  to  the  day  of  His  return. 
It  consists  of  the  period  during  which  the  souls  of  the  departed 
saints  reign  with  Christ.    That  is  what  they  are  doing  now.10 

The  binding  of  Satan  he  interprets  in  terms  of  Christ's 
work  on  earth  and  during  the  gospel  age.11  "But  if  it  is  by 
the  Spirit  of  God  that  I  cast  out  demons,  then  the  kingdom 
of  God  has  come  upon  you.  Or  how  can  one  enter  a 
strong  man's  house  and  plunder  his  goods,  unless  he  first 
binds  the  strong  man?  Then  indeed  he  may  plunder  his 
house"  (Matthew  12:28,  29).  Dr.  Murray  says  further: 

The  amillennialist  believes  definitely  in  the  Lord's  return, 
and  in  the  resurrection  of  just  and  unjust  at  His  coming,  in  the 
ushering  in  of  the  new  heavens  and  the  new  earth  in  which 
righteousness  shall  dwell,  when  the  fires  of  judgment  have  purged 
this  world  of  every  vestige  of  the  curse  of  sin  as  the  ancient  world 
was  purged  by  the  flood.  The  amillennialist  believes  that  the  Lord 
Jesus  will  set  up,  not  a  kingdom  of  a  thousand  years'  duration, 
but  that  his  kingdom  shall  never  be  destroyed.12 

A  theory  of  the  Christian  hope  for  the  future,  more 
familiar  to  many  people,  is  premillennialism.  This  theory 
was  elaborated  by  the  Plymouth  Brethren  in  England  at 
the  dawn  of  the  nineteenth  century  and  it  is  worked  out 


9Vergilius  Ferm   (ed.),  Encyclopedia  of  Religion    (New  York:    Philosophical 
Library,  1945),  page  601. 

10  Millennial  Studies    (Grand  Rapids:    Baker  Book  House,   1948),  page   184. 

11  Ibid.,  page  177. 

12  Ibid.,  pages  87,  88. 


260  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

in  the  dispensationalism  of  the  Scofield  Reference  Bible. 
It  has  also  been  widely  popularized  by  W.  E.  Blackstone's 
book  sent  out  free  early  in  the  twentieth  century  to 
ministers,  missionaries,  Sunday-school  workers,  and 
Y.M.C.A.  secretaries  all  over  the  Protestant  world.  Ac- 
cording to  Blackstone, 

pre-millennial  Christians  hold  much  in  common  with  the  Jews, 
but  also  that  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ  is  the  Messiah;  that  he  is  to 
return  to  the  earth  and  overthrow  Satan,  all  ungodly  government, 
and  lawlessness,  and  establish  a  kingdom  of  righteousness,  having 
the  Church,  with  Himself  as  sovereign,  Jerusalem  as  the  capital, 
regathered  and  converted  Israel  as  the  center,  and  all  nations 
included  in  a  universal,  world-wide  kingdom  of  pure  and  blessed 
government.13 

Such  are  some  of  the  schematized  pictures  of  our 
future  hope.  There  has  been  no  general  agreement  on 
interpretations  among  orthodox  Christians.  Men  of  equal 
devotion  to  the  Bible  have  differed  on  this  matter,  as  the 
above  paragraphs  indicate.  Whatever  view  we  hold,  it  is 
important  to  keep  clear  that  our  hope  is  based  primarily 
on  God's  purposes  and  power.  It  is  important  also  to 
project  our  hope  for  the  future  and  to  interpret  the 
Biblical  materials  from  the  baseline  of  the  first  advent  of 
Christ  and  from  the  truth  of  the  gospel  which  he  brought. 
Further  points  of  caution  and  guidance  will  follow  in  the 
remaining  affirmations. 

When  Will  This  Be? 

The  setting  of  dates  for  the  fulfillment  of  our  future 
hopes  is  a  precarious  procedure.  This  is  true,  in  the  first 
place,  because  of  the  explicit  disclaimer  of  Jesus  Christ 
himself.  "But  of  that  day  or  that  hour  no  one  knows,  not 
even  the  angels  in  heaven,  nor  the  Son,  but  only  the 
Father"    (Mark  13:32;  see  also  Matthew  24:36).    Instead 


18  W.  E.  Blackstone,  Jesus  Is  Coming  (Revell,  1898),  page  37. 


Christian  Hope  261 

of  such  busy  chronological  speculation,  they  were  warned, 
they  should  "take  heed,  watch  and  pray"  in  the  faithful 
discharge  of  their  work  (Mark  13:33-37).  In  a  similar 
case  recorded  in  Acts  1:6-11,  the  disciples  were  told,  "It  is 
not  for  you  to  know  times  or  seasons  which  the  Father 
has  fixed  by  his  own  authority.  But  you  shall  receive  power 
when  the  Holy  Spirit  has  come  upon  you;  and  you  shall 
be  my  witnesses  in  Jerusalem  and  in  all  Judea  and 
Samaria  and  to  the  end  of  the  earth." 

Another  reason  the  setting  of  dates  is  inadvisable  is 
that  it  has  been  tried  so  often  and  with  such  uniformly 
mistaken  results.  Dr.  S.  J.  Case  gives  a  long  list  of  the 
historical  instances  of  predicting  the  time  of  the  end.14 
Justin  Martyr  expected  it  soon.  Hippolytus  put  it  at 
500  and  Augustine  at  1000  a.d.  Other  Bible  scholars, 
mathematicians,  and  sectarian  groups  kept  on  setting 
dates:  1260  (because  of  the  1260  days  in  Revelation  12:6!), 
1365-1367,  1660,  1688,  1689,  1715,  1730,  1734,  1774.  In 
1827  the  Plymouth  Brethren  predicted  it  as  imminent.  In 
1830  the  Mormons,  as  Latter  Day  Saints,  began  their 
predictions.  In  1843  and  1844  William  Miller  gave  his 
fevered  predictions.  On  the  second  failure  he  gave  it 
up  but  his  followers  kept  up  the  calculations.  Out  of 
this  Millerite  influence  came  the  Seventh  Day  Adventist 
movement.  In  the  troublous  times  since  the  First  World 
War  there  have  been  many  individual  predictions. 

This  is  not  to  say  that  the  idea  of  imminence  is  dis- 
credited or  that  there  is  no  urgency  in  our  work.  The 
unknown  aspect  of  the  end  of  the  world  does  not  mean 
that  it  will  last  forever  or  even  that  it  will  still  last  a  very 
long  time.  According  to  scientific  estimates  the  sun  trans- 
forms into  radiant  energy  three  hundred  sixty  billion  tons 


14  James   Hastings    (ed.),  Encyclopedia   of  Religion  and  Ethics    (New  York: 
Scribners,   1921),  article  on  "Second  Adventism,"  Volume  XI,  pages  282ff. 


262  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

of  its  mass  every  twenty-four  hours;  and  the  sun  is  able  to 
stand  this  prodigious  draft  upon  its  resources  for  fifteen 
trillion  years  to  come!  That  might  relieve  our  minds  of 
any  immediate  concern  for  the  *  'heat-death"  of  the  earth! 
But  it  still  means  that  it  will  end  sometime. 

Present-day  tinkering  with  atomic  energy  makes  us 
face  the  conceivable  possibility  that  earthly  life  could  be 
made  untenable  any  moment  by  an  inadvertence  or 
blunder  of  man.  When  we  consider  present  world  tensions 
we  also  face  the  collapse  of  civilizations  and  cultures. 
Man's  public  life,  like  his  individual  life,  is  precariously 
held  together.  There  are  tough  durabilities  which  promise 
long  life.  There  are  also  many  probabilities  of  accident 
which  make  man's  tenure  in  this  world  fragile. 
Chronologically  we  are  nearly  two  thousand  years  nearer 
the  end  than  at  the  beginning  of  the  Christian  era.  Thus 
for  each  of  us  and  for  all  of  us  the  end  is  near.  The  urgency 
in  the  Bible  is  related  to  time  and  to  its  end  but  it  is  set, 
however,  in  terms  of  the  responsibility  of  free  choice  and 
moral  decision.  For  men  and  for  nations,  "now  is  the 
acceptable  time;  .  .  .  now  is  the  day  of  salvation"  (2 
Corinthians  6:2).  Therefore,  the  king's  business  requires 
haste.  The  passing  moments  of  destiny,  as  well  as  the 
imminent  end  for  each  of  us  or  for  all  of  us,  give  every  day 
a  critical  urgency. 

The  Dark  Side  of  the  Future 

There  is  ground  for  pessimism  as  we  view  the  future 
of  history.  This  note  is  clearly  struck  in  the  Bible,  and 
clusters  around  eschatological  texts.  "When  the  Son  of 
man  comes,  will  he  find  faith  on  earth?"  (Luke  18:8). 
"For  in  those  days  there  will  be  such  tribulation  as  has 
not  been  from  the  beginning  of  the  creation  which  God 
created  until  now,  and  never  will  be"  (Mark  13:19).  "Let 


Christian  Hope  263 

no  one  deceive  you  in  any  way;  for  that  day  will  not  come, 
unless  the  rebellion  comes  first  .  .  ."  (2  Thessalonians 
2:3).  'Tor  the  time  is  coming  when  people  will  not  endure 
sound  teaching"  (2  Timothy  4:3).  'Tor  nation  will  rise 
up  against  nation,  and  kingdom  against  kingdom;  there 
will  be  earthquakes  in  various  places,  there  will  be 
famines;  this  is  but  the  beginning  of  the  sufferings" 
(Mark  13:8). 

This  note  of  Scripture  is  easily  confirmed  by  the 
experiences  of  recent  decades.  All  about  us  lie  the  ruins 
of  blasted  social  hopes.  The  temperance  movement 
brought  us  a  saloonless  nation  indeed,  but  two  taverns — 
or  more — now  stand  where  one  saloon  stood  before.  "The 
evangelization  of  the  world  in  this  generation"  flourished 
as  a  missionary  slogan  from  1886  to  1927.  That  prodigious 
missionary  endeavor  still  leaves  us  with  more  non- 
Christians  in  the  world  than  there  were  in  1886  and  with 
great  waves  of  resistance  to  the  gospel  as  it  comes  from 
the  West.  A  war  was  fought  to  end  war  in  1916-1918  and 
a  quarter-century  later  a  new  holocaust  engulfed  the  world. 
The  nations  which  had  agreed  to  outlaw  war  were  at  each 
other's  throats  again  with  illegal  wars.  There  is  ground 
for  pessimism. 

In  the  forms  of  Christian  hope,  account  must  be 
taken  of  the  recent  eclipse  of  any  pervasive  belief  in 
progress  such  as  marked  the  nineteenth  century.  We  live 
in  a  world  which  believes  in  the  "decline  of  the  West"; 
which  believes  that  man  may  be  moral  in  his  personal 
relationships  but  that  he  tends  to  be  immoral  in  his  wider 
impersonal  relationships;  and  which  believes  that  each 
new  step  of  progress  involves  us  in  some  new  form  of  evil. 
The  Bible  acknowledges  such  evil  in  the  world  and, 
according  to  the  parable  of  the  tares  (Matthew  13:24-30, 
36-43),  this  kind  of  mixture  of  good  and  evil  will  continue 


264  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

until  the  close  of  the  age.  We  should  be  careful,  however, 
lest  we  confuse  the  will  of  God  with  the  evil  which  men 
do  in  their  freedom.  When  we  read  about  wars  and  rumors 
of  wars  (Mark  13:7)  we  are  reading  an  actuarial  statement 
about  man's  probable  sin,  not  a  prediction  of  what  God 
wills.  We  are  not  reading  an  order  that  we  engage  in  such 
wars.  We  are  reading  a  caution  against  alarm,  a  warning 
lest  we  be  led  astray  by  false  messiahs,  and  a  call  to 
patience  and  faithfulness.  "But  he  who  endures  to  the 
end  will  be  saved"   (Mark  13:13). 

The  Bright  Side  of  the  Future 

There  is  also  ground  for  real  hope  as  we  view  the 
future  of  history.  This  note  is  struck  in  Scripture  and 
validated  in  history.  The  parables  of  the  sower,  of  the 
mustard  seed,  and  of  the  leaven  (Matthew  13:1-23,  31-33) 
imply  growth  in  the  kingdom.  The  Lord's  Prayer  sets  our 
petition  for  us:  "Thy  kingdom  come,  thy  will  be  done  on 
earth,  as  it  is  in  heaven."  The  promise  of  Pentecost  is  for 
power  to  witness  to  the  ends  of  the  earth.  The  power  and 
debt  of  the  gospel  are  for  the  Jew  and  the  Greek,  the  wise 
and  the  foolish.  The  growth  of  the  church  and  the  course 
of  Christian  missions  through  history  validate  the  truth 
of  the  Christian  ethic  and  the  power  of  the  gospel.  Despite 
opposition,  persecution,  and  martyrdom,  despite  coldness, 
disloyalty,  and  apostasy,  the  church  has  endured  and  the 
gospel  has  spread.  The  Bible  has  been  translated  into  over 
a  thousand  tongues.  Men  have  experienced  moral  and 
spiritual  renewal  in  their  individual  lives  under  the  power 
of  the  gospel.  Communities  and  nations  have  experienced 
moral  and  spiritual  renewal  in  eras  of  revival  and  growth. 

Who  is  to  say  that  we  have  come  to  the  end  of  such 
periods  of  reformation,  of  renaissance,  of  enlightenment? 
Is  it  not  inherent  in  the  incarnation  that  God  means  well 


Christian  Hope  265 

by  history  and  that  he  still  has  blessings  to  bestow  before 
the  end?  God  is  the  ruler  yet.  Hope  for  the  future  is  not 
an  illusion  based  on  the  overworking  of  our  glands.  It  is 
a  religious  conviction  about  God  and  the  purpose  of  the 
incarnation  not  invalidated  by  the  course  of  events.  Our 
view  is  not  inevitable  progress,  to  be  sure,  but  not  inevit- 
able decline  either.  One  is  as  liable  to  be  false  and  illusory 
as  the  other.  To  say  dogmatically,  for  example,  that  war 
is  inevitable  develops  a  defeatist  attitude  which  blocks 
the  efforts  for  reconciliation  which  can  and  ought  to  be 
made.  We  are  not  helpless  objects  on  the  tide  of  events 
but  men  responsible  for  peace  and  goodwill. 

The  argument  from  the  "wave  of  the  future''  is  what 
led  many  Germans  into  the  Nazi  movement.  Dr.  Kenneth 
Latourette  sets  forth  a  view  of  history  as  a  series  of  waves 
with  periods  of  advance  and  intervals  of  recession.15  This 
takes  account  of  both  hopeful  and  discouraging  events.  He 
indicates  that  by  area  and  by  influence  there  has  been  net 
growth  in  the  history  of  the  church.  Each  wave  of  advance 
has  surpassed  the  former  one.  No  interval  of  recession  has 
gone  below  former  ones.  The  total  picture  is  one  of 
advance  through  storm.  If  we  are  now  in  a  period  of 
recession,  the  present  line  of  decline  need  not  be  pro- 
jected to  the  end.  One  might  as  well  stand  in  Detroit, 
looking  south  across  the  river  into  Ontario,  and  insist  that 
the  United  States  is  north  of  Canada.  In  any  case  it  is 
our  assignment  to  work  and  to  witness,  to  pray  and  to  be 
faithful,  "always  abounding  in  the  work  of  the  Lord, 
knowing  that  in  the  Lord  your  labor  is  not  in  vain"  (1 
Corinthians  15:58). 

Surely  Archbishop  Temple   is   in   the   true   line   of 


15  The  Unquenchable  Light  (New  York:  Harper,  1941).  He  traces  four 
great  eras  of  advance  with  the  period  1815-1914  as  the  latest.  Each  of  them 
grew  out  of  an  era  of  recession.  At  the  time  of  each  revival,  no  era  of  advance 
would  have  been  predicted  from  the  trend  of  events. 


266  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

prophecy  as  he  envisions  from  such  labor  a  world  taking 
shape,  much  like  our  own  and  yet  how  different! 

Still  city  and  country  life  with  all  their  manifold  pursuits 
and  interests,  but  no  leading  into  captivity  and  no  complaining 
in  our  streets;  still  richer  and  poorer,  but  no  thoughtless  luxury, 
no  grinding  destitution;  still  sorrow,  but  no  bitterness;  still  failure 
but  no  oppression;  still  priest  and  people,  yet  both  alike  unitedly 
presenting  before  the  eternal  Father  the  one  true  sacrifice  of 
dedicated  life  —  the  Body  broken  and  the  Blood  outpoured;  still 
Church  and  World,  yet  both  together  celebrating  unintermittently 
that  divine  service  which  is  the  service  of  mankind.18 

Our  Spiritual  Warfare 

There  is  a  real  moral  struggle  going  on  in  the  world, 
moving  toward  ultimate  destiny.  History  is  seen  in  the 
Bible  as  a  dramatic  conflict  between  the  forces  of  good 
and  the  forces  of  evil.  It  is  not  merely  an  economic 
struggle  issuing  in  the  survival  of  the  fittest.  It  is  not 
primarily  a  political  or  military  struggle  in  which  nation 
makes  war  against  nation  for  power  and  advantage.  All  of 
this  is  under  the  moral  governance  of  God.  There  is  a 
moral  order  in  which  "whatever  a  man  sows,  that  he  will 
also  reap"  (Galatians  6:7).  Therefore,  "we  are  not 
contending  against  flesh  and  blood,  but  against  the  prin- 
cipalities, against  the  powers,  against  the  world  rulers  of 
this  present  darkness,  against  the  spiritual  hosts  of  wicked- 
ness in  the  heavenly  places"   (Ephesians  6:12). 

While  the  Bible  affirms  God's  sovereignty,  it  is  realistic 
enough  to  discern  in  the  world  much  resistance  and 
opposition  to  his  moral  demands.  It  is  also  dualistic 
enough  to  take  seriously  the  distinction  between  right  and 
wrong.  There  are  forces  of  evil  which  are  powerful  and 
elusive  realities  of  the  spiritual  world.    In  the  economic 


16  William   Temple,    The  Hope  of  a  New   World    (New   York:     Macmillan, 

V    natrps    194     19* 


1942),  pages   124,   125. 


Christian  Hope  267 

realm  and  in  the  political  realm  there  are  prejudices, 
ingrained  attitudes,  cumulative  resentments,  and  passions 
which  are  vividly  and  accurately  called  principalities, 
powers,  world  rulers,  and  spiritual  hosts  of  wickedness.  The 
history  of  nations  and  the  biography  of  individuals  is 
profoundly  seen  to  center  in  the  moral  struggle  against 
these  forces.  Jesus  regarded  his  ministry  as  such  a  struggle 
against  Satan  and  these  forces.  His  temptation  (Mark 
1:13),  his  healing  work  (Mark  3:20-27),  his  training  of  the 
disciples  (Luke  22:3,  31),  and  his  teaching  of  the  truth 
(Mark  4:15)  were  all  viewed  as  part  of  this  struggle.  The 
success  of  his  disciples'  mission  was  regarded  as  the  fall  of 
Satan  like  lightning  from  heaven    (Luke   10:18). 

We  do  well  not  to  regard  this  as  primitive  superstition 
but  as  a  profound  interpretation  of  human  history  and 
experience.  In  this  light  we  can  understand  Christ's  death 
and  resurrection  as  a  victory  in  the  vanquishing  of  evil. 
We  can  look  forward  to  long  years  of  further  struggle  and 
contending  against  these  powers,  although  since  Calvary 
and  Easter  they  have  been  more  than  matched. 

The  outcome  of  this  struggle  involves  judgment  and 
destiny  for  men  and  nations.  As  we  noted  in  chapter  eight, 
there  is  no  assurance  that  the  triumph  of  good  implies 
complete  victory  in  every  case.  In  view  of  the  freedom 
of  man  and  the  law  of  the  harvest,  the  triumph  of  good  is 
a  vindication  of  the  good  as  good  and  the  judgment  of 
evil  as  evil.  We  are  sometimes  too  glib  in  consigning  men 
to  hell.  And  we  easily  become  overly  curious  about  its 
combustion  chambers.  But  the  judgment  it  represents  is 
real,  severe,  terrifying,  and  fixed.  The  Bible  is  concerned 
to  awaken  in  us  a  sense  of  moral  responsibility  before  God. 
It  is  in  the  realm  of  decisions  made  in  this  moral  struggle 
that  our  destiny  is  fixed.    Dr.  Charles  Gore  makes  clear 


268  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

how,  even  at  the  worst  end,  this  moral  significance  of 
our  destiny  obtains. 

Finally  lost  souls,  only  so  by  their  own  persistence  in  refusing 
the  known  good  and  choosing  the  evil,  I  feel  bound  to  believe 
there  will  be.  .  .  .  But  I  conceive  that  the  lost  also  will  recognize 
that  the  mind  of  God  toward  them  was  only  good.17 

Beyond  This  World 

Our  hope  within  history  is  set  in  the  framework  of 
our  hope  beyond  history.  The  Christian  faith,  as  we  have 
seen,  is  one  whose  center  is  literally  "out  of  this  world." 
It  is  a  faith  with  supernatural  dimensions.  The 
doctrine  of  creation  puts  the  origin  of  the  world  and  of 
man  beyond  the  created  order.  The  image  of  God  in 
man  puts  his  center  of  gravity  outside  himself.  The 
Christian  especially  is  one  whose  citizenship  and  common- 
wealth are  in  heaven.  This  otherworldliness  gives  no 
warrant  for  irresponsibility  in  this  life,  as  the  mission  of 
Christ  and  of  the  church  make  clear.  But  history  is  not 
self-fulfilling  and  it  is  from  heaven  that  we  await  a  Savior, 
the  Lord  Jesus  Christ  (Philippians  3:20). 

This  Biblical  perspective  is  often  overlooked  in  the 
robust  naturalism  and  growing  secularism  of  modern  life. 
Death  is  obscured  by  fevered  activity  and  entertainment. 
Funerals  are  replete  with  flowers,  and  the  harshness  of 
the  gaping  grave  is  softened  by  grass  carpet.  The  departed 
ones  are  placed  in  impressive  mausoleums  where  they  are 
assured  of  "perpetual  care."  But  death  is  still  the  grim 
reaper,  and  the  inescapable  fact  of  life.  In  war  and  in 
traffic  accidents  he  intrudes  his  gaunt  hand  into  the  gay 
years  of  youth.  It  is  still  "appointed  for  men  to  die  once" 
(Hebrews  9:27). 


17  Thomas  Kepler,   Contemporary  Religious   Thought    (Nashville:    Abingdon 
Press,   1941). 


Christian  Hope  269 

This  world  is  not  enough  to  satisfy  the  need  of  man, 
for  God  has  set  eternity  in  his  heart.  Man  faces  perennially 
the  ancient  question,  "If  a  man  die,  shall  he  live  again?" 
(Job  14:14).  If  we  move  from  the  personal  life  and  death 
of  the  individual  to  that  of  nations,  cultures,  and  history, 
we  find  the  question  especially  sharpened  in  recent 
decades.  So  long  as  men  believed  in  the  endless  duration 
of  the  physical  world  and  the  law  of  conservation  of 
energy,  they  might  hope  in  the  future  of  this  world.  When 
the  individual  died  he  could  sit  as  an  immortal  in  the 
balconies  of  heaven  and  watch  the  ongoing  progress  of 
man.  He  could  join  the  "choir  invisible  whose  music  is 
the  gladness  of  the  world."  But  now  the  scientists  speak 
of  the  law  of  entropy  and  conclude  that  the  universe  is 
running  down.  This  world  is  not  enough.  Since  the 
discovery  of  nuclear  energy  it  is  man's  intenser  fear  that 
the  world  will  blow  up.  Neglected  scriptures  have 
relevance  once  more;  such  as  "the  time  has  grown  very 
short"  (1  Corinthians  7:29)  and  "the  heavens  will  pass 
away  with  a  loud  noise,  and  the  elements  will  be  dissolved 
with  fire"   (2  Peter  3:10). 

If  there  is  to  be  an  inevitable  end  of  this  world, 
however  remote,  we  need  another  hope.  Cultural 
immortality  is  not  enough,  for  culture  will  come  to  an 
end.  Family  or  racial  immortality,  whereby  we  live  on 
in  our  grandchildren,  is  not  enough,  for  all  our  sons 
and  daughters  are  threatened  with  extinction.  It  is 
precisely  here  that  the  Christian  hope  fits  in.  It  speaks 
to  this  condition,  for  it  is  tied  to  another  world.  It  looks 
to  the  things  that  are  unseen,  and  the  things  that  are 
unseen  are  eternal.  The  Christian  life  is  an  amphibious 
operation.  It  works  on  land  and  sea.  It  is  like  traveling 
by  air,  where  the  shoreline  between  land  and  sea  makes 
no  difference,  for  this  is  a  mode  of  travel  which  rises  above 


270  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

the  difference.  The  Christian  hope  is  called  eternal  life. 
This  dimension  of  life  can  be  entered  in  this  world. 
"God  gave  us  eternal  life,  and  this  life  is  in  his  Son.  He 
who  has  the  Son  has  life;  he  who  has  not  the  Son  has  not 
life"  (1  John  5:11,  12).  "Our  commonwealth  is  in 
heaven." 

This  perspective  makes  life  meaningful  and  coherent, 
as  the  Venerable  Bede  records  from  627  a.d.  when  a  monk 
tried  to  persuade  an  English  king  to  accept  the  Christian 
faith.  One  of  this  king's  officers  made  the  following 
impressive  plea: 

The  present  life  of  man  upon  earth,  O  King,  seems  to  me, 
in  comparison  to  the  time  unknown  to  us,  like  to  swift  flight  of 
a  sparrow  through  that  house  wherein  you  sit  at  supper  in  winter 
with  your  ealdormen  and  thegns  while  the  fire  blazes  in  the  midst, 
and  the  hall  is  warmed,  but  the  wintry  storms  of  rain  or  snow 
are  raging  abroad  without.  The  sparrow,  flying  in  at  one  door 
and  immediately  out  at  another,  whilst  he  is  within  is  safe  from 
the  wintry  tempest;  but  after  a  short  space  of  fair  weather  he 
immediately  vanishes  out  of  your  sight,  passing  from  winter  into 
winter  again.  So  this  life  of  man  appears  for  a  little  while,  but 
of  what  is  to  follow  or  what  went  before  we  know  nothing  at  all. 
If  therefore  this  new  doctrine  tells  us  something  more  certain,  it 
seems  justly  to  deserve  to  be  followed. 

Jesus  Christ  Is  the  Lord  of  the  Future 

This  brings  us  at  once  to  the  center  and  content  of  our 
Christian  hope.  It  also  brings  us  to  the  center  and  content 
of  the  Christian  faith — to  Christ,  the  author  and  finisher  of 
our  faith. 

We  start  with  his  resurrection.  His  resurrection  from 
the  dead  is  the  vivid  ground  of  our  hope  for  the  future 
life.  "We  too  believe,  and  so  we  speak,  knowing  that  he 
who  raised  the  Lord  Jesus  will  raise  us  also  with  Jesus 
and  bring  us  with  you  into  his  presence"    (2  Corinthians 


Christian  Hope  271 

4:13,  14).  Every  book  of  the  New  Testament  declares  or 
assumes  that  Christ  rose  from  the  dead.  This  witness  is 
validated  by  the  fact  that  the  sabbath  of  the  Christians 
was  celebrated  on  Sunday,  the  Lord's  Day.  It  is  confirmed 
inescapably  by  the  living  fact  of  the  church  itself.  One 
cannot  otherwise  explain  why  a  group  of  disciples  who 
were  defeated  by  the  crucifixion  should  so  suddenly 
become  bold,  joyous,  and  enduring.  They  had  seen  the 
Lord  alive.  The  resurrection  faith  is  something  more  than 
the  widespread  belief  in  immortality.  To  be  sure,  men 
have  always  had  this  as  the  "soul's  invincible  surmise." 
Primitive  men  had  it  and  set  vessels  and  objects  in  the 
grave  with  a  loved  one.  The  great  mind  of  Plato  was  busy 
setting  forth  proofs  of  the  immortality  of  the  soul. 
Present-day  studies  in  extrasensory  perception  and  experi- 
ments in  psychic  communication  seek  to  assure  us  of 
survival  after  death.  All  of  these  attest  to  the  hunger  and 
the  surmise,  but  they  find  their  answer  in  the  robust 
certainty  of  Christ's  own  resurrection. 

This  belief  in  the  resurrection  also  assures  us  of  an 
adequate  personality  in  the  future  life.  Psychological 
studies  show  how  interconnected  are  the  relationships 
between  body  and  mind.  It  is  hard  to  see  how  a  dis- 
embodied soul  can  experience  anything  called  life.  But 
the  Christian  hope  is  set  in  terms  of  resurrection.  The 
same  God  who  gives  us  life  now  will,  it  is  believed,  give 
us  a  new  instrument  of  personal  life.  Paul  calls  it  a 
"spiritual  body"  (1  Corinthians  15:44)  and  assures  us 
of  an  adequate  house  to  live  in,  "so  that  by  putting  it  on 
we  may  not  be  found  naked"  (2  Corinthians  5:3).  The 
resurrection  of  the  body,  affirmed  in  Christian  creeds,  is  not 
to  be  taken  as  a  crude  reproduction  of  the  present  physical 
life,  but  rather  that  God  will  give  us  a  new  personality,  an 
instrument  adequate  for  recognition,  for  communication 


272  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

and  fellowship,  and  for  full  participation  in  eternal  life. 

We  relate  the  consummation  to  his  return.  Some 
Christians  focus  so  much  attention  on  the  advent  of  Christ 
at  the  end  that  they  leave  the  impression  that  he  is  really 
absent  from  our  present  life.  They  thus  seem  to  minimize 
his  real  presence  "where  two  or  three  are  gathered  to- 
gether" in  worship;  or  his  real  presence  in  the  rich  intimacy 
of  the  Lord's  supper;  or  his  real  presence  when  in  giving 
a  cup  of  cold  water  in  his  name  we  are  giving  it  to  him; 
or  his  real  presence  in  our  whole  Christian  life — "Christ 
who  lives  in  me"   (Galatians  2:20). 

Other  Christians  focus  so  much  attention  on  these 
recurrent  comings  of  Christ  that  they  obscure  the  coming 
of  Christ  at  the  end  time.  The  Biblical  words  for  his 
coming,  whether  presence,  revelation,  or  appearing  (in 
Greek:  parousia,  apocalypsis,  or  epiphaneia),  are  flexible 
enough  in  their  meaning  that  they  can  be  applied  to  any 
real  experience  we  have  with  Christ.  But  this  does  not 
obscure  the  hope  that  the  consummation  at  the  end  time 
will  be  related  in  a  real  way  with  a  fresh  and  distinctive 
encounter  with  Christ  the  Lord  of  the  future.  The  pictures 
and  images  in  which  it  is  set  forth  are  vivid  figures  of 
speech  but  this  is  not  to  obscure  but  rather  to  affirm  the 
hope  of  his  final  appearance. 

The  final  judgment  will  be  determined  by  his  stand- 
ards. The  idea  of  the  divine  judgment  is  part  of  the 
structure  of  the  Old  Testament.  In  the  New  Testament 
this  expectation  is  centered  in  Christ  as  Son  of  man.  The 
work  of  judgment  was  related  to  his  first  advent  (John 
3:19;  9:39;  12:31).  He  spoke  repeatedly  of  the  standards 
of  present  conduct  which  will  determine  ultimate  judg- 
ment (note  especially  Matthew  25:31-46).  But  the  sum- 
mary judgment  is  set  at  the  end  time  and  Christ  himself 
will    be   the    standard   for    the    great    assize.     It    is    the 


Christian  Hope  273 

Christian  belief  that  the  ethical  revelation  at  the  first 
advent  will  be  the  criterion  for  the  last  advent.  At  no 
point  is  it  truer  that  ' 'Jesus  Christ  is  the  same  yesterday 
and  today  and  for  ever"  (Hebrews  13:8). 

There  is  much  mystery  attached  to  the  consummation 
and  to  the  future  life.  But  it  is  the  worst  of  errors  to 
interpret  the  pictures  of  the  end  time  in  a  way  which 
violates  the  ethical  standards  of  Christ's  first  advent.  We 
should  interpret  prophecies  about  the  kingdom  of  the 
future  in  terms  of  the  kingdom  brought  to  hand  by 
Christ's  first  advent.  He  will  be  the  kind  of  king  then  that 
he  was  willing  to  be  the  first  time.  His  judgment  will  be 
severe  then,  as  it  was  the  first  time.  But  the  sharp  two- 
edged  sword  which  he  is  to  bear  proceeds  out  of  his  mouth 
(Revelation  1:16).  The  King  and  Judge  will  still  be  the 
Servant  and  the  Lamb. 

The  essence  of  eternal  life  is  the  fellowship  of  his 
presence.  As  to  the  nature  of  the  future  life,  the  language 
varies  and  is,  of  necessity,  physical  and  figurative.  But 
"flesh  and  blood  cannot  inherit  the  kingdom  of  God"  (1 
Corinthians  15:50).  These  are  figures  to  set  forth  spiritual 
realities.  Beyond  the  golden  streets  and  the  jasper  walls, 
beyond  the  gates  of  pearl  and  the  river  of  the  water  of 
life,  heaven  will  be  marked  by  spiritual  delights  and 
rewards.  There  will  doubtless  be  rest  for  the  people  of 
God — not  sleepy  inactivity  but  surcease  of  sorrow  and 
temptation.  There  will  doubtless  be  activity  as  his 
servants  go  about  their  tasks.  There  will  be  the  delight  of 
knowledge  when  we  shall  understand  fully,  even  as  we 
have  been  fully  understood.  But  the  real  heart  of  heavenly 
experience  will  be  fellowship  in  the  presence  of  Christ,  the 
Lord  of  the  future.  That  is  our  hope  for  heaven  and  our 
comfort  on  earth.  "Let  not  your  hearts  be  troubled.  .  .  . 
I  will  come  again  and  will  take  you  to  myself,  that  where 


274  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

I  am  you  may  be  also"  (John  14:1-3).  It  is  a  profound 
assurance  that  to  be  in  fellowship  with  Christ  in  this  life 
is  both  a  foretaste  and  a  guarantee  of  being  in  his  fellow- 
ship forever. 

The  grace  of  the  Lord  Jesus  Christ  and  the 
love  of  God  and  the  fellowship  of  the  Holy  Spirit 
be  with  you  all. 


Selected  Bibliography 

In  addition  to  the  references  in  the  footnotes,  atten- 
tion is  called  to  the  following  list  of  books.  They  open  up 
the  current  discussion  of  the  Christian  faith  as  a  whole. 
The  authors  write  from  various  viewpoints,  as  indicated 
partly  from  their  denominational  backgrounds.  The  inclu- 
sion of  their  works  does  not  imply  agreement  with  all  of 
their  positions.  The  present  author's  own  viewpoint 
should  be  clear  from  the  above  chapters.  Readers  may  wish 
to  use  several  of  these  volumes  at  a  time  for  comparative 
study  of  Christian  beliefs.  By  such  study  the  great  common 
affirmations  will  be  clarified.  Differences  of  viewpoint  will 
have  to  be  resolved  by  renewed  study  of  the  Bible  and  by 
fresh  thinking  under  the  illumination  of  the  Holy  Spirit. 

Elementary  Manuals 

Gray,  Henry  David,  A  Theology  for  Christian  Youth  (New 
York:  Abingdon,  1941).    Methodist. 

Harner,  Nevin  C,  /  Believe    (Nashville:  Youth  Depart- 
ment, 1954).   Reformed. 

Kurtz,  Daniel  W.,  Studies  in  Doctrine    (Elgin:  Brethren 
Publishing  House,  1919).    Church  of  the  Brethren. 

Murray,  Joseph  James,  A  Faith  for  Youth    (Richmond: 
John  Knox  Press,  1948).   Presbyterian. 

Theology  for  Laymen 

Brunner,  Emil,  Our  Faith    (New  York:  Scribners,  1954). 
Swiss  Reformed. 


276  Studies  in  Christian  Belief 

Caird,  George  B.,  The  Truth  of  the  Gospel  (London: 
Oxford  University  Press,  1950).  United  Church  of 
Canada. 

Easton,  W.  Burnet,  Jr.,  Basic  Christian  Beliefs  (Philadel- 
phia: The  Westminster  Press,  1957).   Presbyterian. 

Finegan,  Jack,  Beginnings  in  Theology  (New  York:  As- 
sociation Press,  1956).   Disciples  of  Christ. 

Harkness,   Georgia,    Understanding   the   Christian   Faith 
(New  York:  Abingdon,  1947).    Methodist. 

Horton,  Walter  Marshall,  Our  Christian  Faith  (Boston: 
The  Pilgrim  Press,  1947).   Congregational. 

Read,  David  H.  C,  The  Christian  Faith  (New  York: 
Scribners,  1956).   Presbyterian. 

Wenger,  John,  Introduction  to  Theology  (Herald  Press, 
Scottdale,  1954).   Mennonite. 

Fuller  Statements  of  the  Christian  Faith 

Aulen,  Gustaf,  The  Faith  of  the  Christian  Church  (Phil- 
adelphia: Muhlenberg  Press,  1948).  Swedish  Lu- 
theran. 

Berkhof,  Louis,  Systematic  Theology  (Grand  Rapids: 
Eerdmans  Publishing  Co.,  1941-1953).  Dutch  Re- 
formed. 

Brown,  William  Adams,  Christian  Theology  in  Outline 
(New  York:  Scribners,  1906).    Presbyterian. 

Burrows,  Millar,  An  Outline  of  Biblical  Theology  (Phil- 
adelphia:  Westminster  Press,  1946).  Presbyterian. 

Clarke,  William  Newton,  An  Outline  of  Christian 
Theology  (New  York:  Scribners,  1898).   Baptist. 


Selected  Bibliography  277 

DeWolf,  L.  Harold,  A   Theology  of  the  Living  Church 
(New  York:  Harper,  1953).    Methodist. 

Evans,  William,  The  Great  Doctrines  of  the  Bible 
(Chicago:  The  Moody  Press,  1912).  Conservative 
Protestant. 

Ferre,  Nels  F.  S.,  The  Christian  Faith  (New  York:  Harper, 
1942).    Congregational. 

Garvie,  Alfred  E.,  The  Christian  Doctrine  of  the  Godhead 
(New   York:    George    H.    Doran    Company,    1925). 
Presbyterian. 

Hordern,  William,  A  Laymen's  Guide  to  Protestant 
Theology  (New  York:  Macmillan,  1955).  United 
Church  of  Canada. 

Horton,  Walter  Marshall,  Christian  Theology — An  Ecu- 
menical Approach  (New  York:  Harper,  1955).  Con- 
gregational. 

Quick,  Oliver  C„  Doctrines  of  the  Creed  (New  York: 
Scribners,  1951).   Anglican. 

Spurrier,  William  A.,  Guide  to  the  Christian  Faith  (New 
York:  Scribners,  1952).   Methodist. 

Van  Til,  Cornelius,  The  Defense  of  the  Faith  (Philadel- 
phia: Presbyterian  and  Reformed  Publishing  Co., 
1955).    Dutch  Reformed. 


Index 


Agape  love,  93,  99,  138ff.,  201 
Alienation,  91,  94,  136 
Apostolic,  13,  236,  250 
Assurance,  185,  270,  274 
Atonement,  89ff.,  96 
Authority,  26,  52,  76-78,  233 
Awe,  120 

Baptism,  168,  169,  228 

Belief,  16,  31 

Believers,  17,  180,  218,  240 

Bible,  18-24 

Bishops,  237 

Blood,  85-88 

Bride  of  Christ,  224fL 

Brotherhood,  115,  196-199 

Christ,  5 Iff.,  158ff.,  176,  270 
Christian  life  and  character,  53, 

64-67,  79 
Church,  25,  207,  208ff.,  224ff. 
Communion,  229,  230 
Compassion,  41,  65,  92,  246 
Conduct,  67,  69,  75,  148,  201 
Conformity,  196 
Conversion,  182 
Creation,  107,  112 
Creeds,  11,  26,  61,  157,  165 
Cross,  83,  84,  95 

Deacon,  237 
Death,  82-84,  268-270 
Deity  of  Christ,  51ff.,  158ff. 
Denominations,  216 
Dependence,  109 
Destiny,  153,  177,  267 


Discipleship,    44,    47,    180,    218, 

234 
Discipline,  234 
Divine  initiative,  89,  95,  141 
Doctrine,  26 

Elders,  236 

Ethics,  26ff.,  75,  147,  248,  273 

Evangelism,  204,  245 

Evil,  124ff. 

Example,  46,  64-67 

Experience,  27-30,  172,  177 

Faith,  16,  17,  21,  26,  180 
Father,  102,  115 
Feet-washing,  229 
Fellowship,  196,  197,  231,  273 
Forgiveness,  93,  119,  146 
Freedom,  129,  153 
Future,  264,  268,  273 

Grace,  33,  93 
Growth,  115,  183,  203 
Guidance,  186 
Guilt,  90,  96,  136 

Healing,  231,  246 

Heaven,  268,  273 

Hell,  267 

History,  20,  45,  255 

Holiness,  92,  119 

Holy  Spirit,  30,  161,  173ff. 

Hope,  253,  263 

Image  of  God,  114 
Incarnation,  61,  62 
Individual  person,  194fL 


Index 


279 


Jehovah,  104 

Jesus,  36ff. 

Judgment,  137,  152-154,  267,  272 

Justice,  150,  248 

Kingdom  of  God,  65,  74,  219-223 

Law,  109-110 
Laymen,  241 
Leaders,  210,  235 
Lord's  Supper,  229 
Love,  99,  138ff. 

Man,  112ff. 

Means  and  end,  225,  226 
Millennialism,  258,  259 
Ministry,  235ff. 
Miracles,  110,  192 
Moral  law,  177,  266 

Nature,  108,  110,  127 

Order,  109,  127,  205 

Pain,  124ft 
Peace,  83,  153,  249 
Pentecost,  198ff. 
Perfectionism,  77,  80,  148 
Personal,  46,  62,   103,   104,   176, 

203 
Persuasion,  144,  178 
Pietism,  11,  13 
Power,  188,  201 
Prayer,   189fL 


Prophet,  44,  83,  221,  238,  247 
Providence,  110,  189,  191,  235 
Purification,  94,  194,  200 

Reason,  29,  114 
Reconciliation,  94,  249 
Redemption,  93ff. 
Repentance,  122,  179 
Resurrection,  58,  59,  271 
Righteousness,  75,  121,  122 

Sacrament,  227-231 

Sacrifice,  84-86,  93,  96 

Sanctification,  183 

Satan,  126 

Second  Coming,  260,  272 

Servant,  83,  229 

Severity,  92,  117 

Sin,  130fL 

Societal  sin,  128,  132 

Suffering,   82-84,   93,    123ff.,    146 

Symbols,  88,  227 

Teaching,  68-80,  238 
Trinity,  156ff.,  229 

Universal  salvation,  151-154 

Virgin  birth,  56 

War,  128,  147,  263 
World,  107,  242,  246-248 
Worship,  227ff. 
Wrath,  92,  122 


Staik 


Christian 


by 

William 

Baahm 


Studies  in 


CHRISTIAN   BELIEF 


These  studies  were  prepared  as  one  of  several  two- 
hundred-fiftieth  anniversary  volumes  of  the  Church  of  the 
Brethren.  This  has  always  been  a  noncreedal  church,  re- 
garding the  New  Testament  as  the  only  and  sufficient 
rule  of  faith  and  practice.  She  has,  however,  had  a  con- 
stant interest  in  Christian  doctrines  as  set  forth  in  the 
Biblical  sources.  She  has  carried  on  her  work  in  the 
framework  of  evangelical  Protestant  beliefs.  This  general 
framework  has  been  marked  recently  by  ferment,  ques- 
tioning, and  re-affirmation.  The  Church  of  the  Brethren, 
like  other  churches,  is  under  challenge  to  clarify  and 
re-assess  both  her  own  distinctive  emphases  and  the  total 
outlook  of  her  faith.  Such  encounter  with  the  great 
common  affirmations  of  Christian  belief  will  help  us  to 
see  our  faith  as  one  for  today  and  tomorrow,  as  well  as  one 
for  yesterday.  The  body  of  Christian  belief  is  set  forth 
in  these  studies  along  the  main  outlines  inherent  in  the 
apostolic  benediction:  'The  grace  of  the  Lord  Jesus 
Christ  and  the  love  of  God  and  the  fellowship  of  the 
Holy  Spirit  be  with  you  all"  (2  Corinthians  13:14). 

Of  this  volume,  Paul  Minnich  Robinson,  President  of 
Bethany  Biblical  Seminary,  says:  "Here,  then,  is  a  book 
for  all.  Laymen  will  welcome  it  as  a  clear  and  forthright 
statement  of  the  Christian  faith.  Pastors  and  teachers  will 
find  it  invaluable  as  a  study  guide  for  classes.  Young 
people  will  profit  from  its  use  in  discussion  groups.  It 
will  serve  as  a  manual  for  studies  in  the  meaning  of 
church  membership  and  Christian  experience.  But  what 
is  most  important,  it  will  give  to  all  who  read  it  a 
clearer  understanding  of  'the  faith  once  for  all  delivered 
to  the  saints,'  and  a  deeper  appreciation  for  the  high 
calling  which  is  the  Christian  Way." 


About  the  Author 


William  M.  Beahm,  the  author  of  these 
studies,  is  Dean  of  Bethany  Biblical  Seminary, 
where  he  is  also  Professor  of  Christian  Theol- 
ogy and  Missions.  He  was  born  in  Virginia 
from  two  lines  of  Brethren  parentage.  His 
father,  I.  N.  H.  Beahm,  was  from  the  Shenan- 
doah Valley  of  Virginia  and  his  mother  was 
Mary  Bucher  from  eastern  Pennsylvania.  In 
his  youth,  he  was  nurtured  in  the  Christian 
tradition  of  Brethren  Pietism  as  embodied  in 
home  and  church. 

Dr.  Beahm  received  his  B.  A.  degree  in 
1920  from  Manchester  College,  where  he 
majored  in  history  and  English.  He  received 
from  there  an  honorary  D.  D.  degree  in  1940. 
His  B.  D.  work  was  completed  at  Bethany 
Biblical  Seminary  in  1922.  From  the  Univer- 
sity of  Chicago  he  received  the  M.  A.  degree 
in  1932  and  the  Ph.  D.  degree  in  1941.  He 
studied  also  at  Garrett  Biblical  Institute  and 
at  Northwestern  University. 

(Continued   on   inside  bac\   flap) 


(Continued  from  inside  front  flap) 

While  a  graduate  student  he  served  one 
term  as  the  secretary  of  the  United  Student 
Volunteers  of  the  Church   of  the  Brethren. 
This    was   followed    by   a   year   as   traveling 
secretary   for   the   Student   Volunteer   Move- 
ment  for  Foreign   Missions.    He  spent    the 
years  from  1924  to  1937  as  a  missionary  oi 
his   church   in   northeastern    Nigeria.     Since 
1938   he   has  been   on   the   staff  of  Bethany 
Biblical  Seminary;  as  dean  since   1944.    I  [e 
has  served  his  church  as  Annual  Conference 
secretary    (1942-1953),    as    Annual    Conic 
ence   Moderator   (1954),   and   as   a  member 
of   the    General    Brotherhood    Board    (194(> 
1950;  1957—). 

Dr.  Beahm  was  editor  and  chief  translate)! 
of  the  New  Testament  published  in  the  Bura 
language  of  Nigeria  in  1937.  He  has  con 
tributed  articles  to  denominational  journals 
and  chapters  in  several  books  such  as  The 
Church  Today  and  Tomorrow  (1947),  Breth- 
ren Builders  in  Our  Century  (1952),  Brother 
Bonsac\  (1954),  Li\e  a  Living  Stone  (1955). 
He  is  the  author  of  two  pamphlets  on  the 
sacraments:  The  Brethren  Love  Feast  (1943) 
and  The  Meaning  of  Baptism  (1952). 

"Writing  from  his  own  Pietistic  back- 
ground, the  author  has  nevertheless  in- 
terpreted Christian  doctrine  with  the  clear 
understanding  of  the  best  theological  thought 
from  the  time  of  the  early  church  until  the 
present  day.  With  his  remarkable  gift  for 
expression,  and  his  unfailing  sense  of  humor, 
he  has  been  able  to  present  profound  ideas  in 
simple  and  understandable  language.  He  has 
avoided  the  peril  of  speaking  in  unintelligible 
'theological  tongues.'  Written  out  of  his  own 
deep  religious  faith,  and  a  lifetime  of  Chris- 
tian experience,  the  book  becomes  more  than 
a  study  in  doctrine.  It  is  also  a  testament  of 
devotion."— Paul  Minnich  Robinson,  Presi- 
dent, Bethany  Biblical  Seminary. 

Jacket  and  cover  designs  by  Paul  Dailey 


\A/: 


by  William  M.  Beahm